Scientists have created a zombie spider. It works even after death, all it took was a needle, glue and a syringe

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Scientists from Rice University in Houston have figured out how to breathe new life into dead spiders. They describe the conclusions of their work in the journal Advanced Science in the article “Necrobotics: Biotic materials as ready-to-use actuators”.

In it, Professor Daniel Preston and graduate student Faye Yap describe how they did it again use dead spiders as miniature tentaclesnot unlike those seen in some types of slot machines.

The discovery was helped by chance

As is the case with many scientific discoveries, chance played a role in this case as well. “We were moving some equipment around in the lab and graduate student Faye noticed a dead spider,” Preston told USA Today. “We saw that he was all twisted up, his legs were curled inwards. We wondered why that was.’

Unlike humans, who have antagonistic muscle pairs (ie movement is performed by contracting one muscle and relaxing or lengthening the other), spiders’ limb movement works quite differently. In order for the spider to spread its legs and move them, they have to “pump” liquid into them. It is similar in a way to hydraulic systems.

The legs of a dead spider are bent because there is no force to “pump” the liquid into them. In addition, this liquid dries up over time. “When the spider dies, the pressure no longer acts against the flexor muscles, causing its legs to curl inward, as is commonly seen in dead house spiders,” the report states.

“When they die, they lose the ability to actively create pressure in their bodies. That’s why it curls up,” explained Yap, who wanted to use this mechanism for real-world applications. The following video shows how scientists they used a dead spider to lift various objects – from printed circuit boards to another spider.

Reviving dead spiders

Preston and Yap were able to turn dead spiders into miniature “necrobotic” tentacles by pumping small amounts of air into their bodies. They simply inserted a hypodermic needle into the spider’s body, sealed it with glue, connected the needle to a syringe, and used it to control the flow of air into the spider’s body and legs.

Although the research is still in its infancy, according to Preston do spider tentacles have real-world potential for ‘microscale manipulation’ – for example, when lifting small electronic components. “We are also looking forward to the possibility of using it for field work, where the internal flexibility of the fluidic gripping mechanism will allow us to handle fragile or delicate samples,” Preston said.

Based on mathematical scaling, the researchers found that small spiders actually perform even better. They should have a higher grip strength to gripper weight ratio. In their report, they said that these tentacles are an eco-friendly alternative to man-made tentacles because they are naturally biodegradable.

The final report suggests that the lifespan of spider tentacles can be extended by applying a special coating. The legs of the tested spiders lasted up to a thousand grips before they began to wear out due to dehydration.

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