Gravity defying spider feet inspire materials scientists, as reported in ScienceNOW 23 April 2004.

Andrew Martin, a specialist in biomechanics, and colleagues at the Institute for Technical Zoology and Bionics, Bremen, Germany have studied spider feet to find out how spiders can walk upside down. As they suspected the spiders have tiny hairs on their feet that can grip onto any surface they are moving over using van der Waals forces ­ a type of electrostatic attraction between atoms.

The scientists then measured the adhesive force exerted by the spider hairs on a probe. They then calculated that the feet of a small jumping spider named Evarcha acuata could potentially support 173 times its own body weight if all the tiny hairs on its eight legs were attached to the ceiling. This may seem like gross over engineering, but spiders rarely sit with all eight legs firmly attached to the ceiling.

The research was originally published in a journal named Smart Materials and Structures 19 April 2004. Scientists are hoping to develop adhesives that use the same principles as the spider foot hairs. These would have the advantage of being able to work in all weather conditions and even in outer space.

Editorial Comment: As its name suggests the journal named Smart Materials and Structures is full of articles about high tech materials and structures designed by clever engineers and materials scientists, i.e. it recognises creative design and gives credit where it is due. If adhesives that work like spider feet are eventually designed by scientists, the journal will give them the credit. We challenge this journal to acknowledge that spider feet were created by a smarter Engineer, who deserves more credit because He didn’t need to copy from someone else’s work.

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