Trap-jaw spiders strike at the speed of lightning

"This research shows how little we know about spiders and how much there is still to discover," Smithsonian scientist Hannah Wood said.
By Brooks Hays  |  April 7, 2016 at 1:14 PM
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WASHINGTON, April 7 (UPI) -- There's a slight bit of good news for the unfortunate victims of the trap-jaw spider -- the end is quick, very quick.

Researchers with the Smithsonian Institution were recently able to measure the striking speed of the trap-jaw spider. Mecysmaucheniidae spiders take their prey at the speed of lightning.

Scientists used high-speed cameras to capture the spiders shutting their chelicerae, or mouth components. At 40,000 frames a second, the clips revealed the impressive power and speed of the spider's so-called trap jaw.

The Mecysmaucheniidae family of spiders features 25 different species organized among seven genera. All trap-jaw spiders are found in New Zealand and southern portions of South America.

DNA analysis suggests species within the Mecysmaucheniidae family have independently evolved their trap-jaw abilities four different times.

"This research shows how little we know about spiders and how much there is still to discover," Smithsonian scientist Hannah Wood said in a news release. "The high-speed predatory attacks of these spiders were previously unknown."

In studying the mechanics and anatomy of the bite of trap-jaw spiders, researchers showed that the power delivered is greater than the sum of its muscular potential. The discovery suggests their are hidden mechanics involved, capable of amplifying the spiders' muscle power.

Wood and her colleagues are currently comparing the anatomy of the different trap-jaw species to uncover the secret mechanics.

Their latest research was published this week in the journal Current Biology.

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