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Spider listens with its legs to grab flying insects out of the air


By Christa Lesté-Lasserre

Some species of spider can grab prey out of the air at night apparently without seeing it, and now we know how. An analysis of one such spider shows it uses its legs to pick up the sound of flying insects, before throwing a net-like web over the unsuspecting animal.

The ogre-faced net-casting spider (Deinopis spinosa), native to the southern US and parts of the Caribbean and South America, is a “Jekyll and Hyde”-like creature, says Ronald Hoy at Cornell University, New York. By day it uses camouflage to disguise itself as a stick, but at night it transforms into a stealthy hunter.

Dangling upside down from its simple web, the spider dives forward and casts a pre-spun net, held between its four front legs, over prey passing below, says Jay Stafstrom, also at Cornell.

“We already know they use their large eyes to see the prey underneath them because when we temporarily blinded them, they couldn’t catch anything below,” says Stafstrom.

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