We didn’t see this one coming: scientists have managed to control dead spiders’ legs and get them to contract and release at will, forming a “grabber” device that can cling onto things 130% of its mass (!).

That sounds very creepy because it is – at least to people who are afraid of spiders (arachnophobia). These dead-but-controller spiders are called “necrobots.”

Such a thing is achievable because spiders don’t have many muscle fibers like many other animals do. Instead, their legs are driven mainly by (blood) hydraulic pressure, which is why some spider species can jump 50X their height.

That is not just a leg-activation experiment. The researchers think that having a spider claw could be very useful for capturing other insects since the spider might blend better in a natural environment.

“Handheld actuation of our necrobotic gripper will allow for outdoor applications for gathering small and brittle samples or capturing small biological creatures (e.g., a fly) discreetly in nature by camouflaging within the environment,” the white paper says.

The paper also says that such a spider can contract its (dead) legs 1000 times, which is a surprisingly high number. There’s also a lengthy description of the “Necrobotic Gripper Fabrication Procedure,” but they basically install a way to add/remove hydraulic pressure from the legs.

Illustration from identify-spiders.com

I wonder if that would work with a Tarantula, and I’m afraid to know the answer. In any case, I’ve learned that the hydraulics of a spider is controlled by the “cephalothorax” area of the spider’s body (right behind the head), so if you ever want a spider to stop chasing you, that’s the area to hit to impair its mobility. Good luck.

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