Fleet-Footed Tarantula with Comic Book Powers

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'Toe silk' at the end of each leg of the Costa Rican zebra tarantula help give the animal traction. i

"Toe silk" at the end of each leg of the Costa Rican zebra tarantula help give the animal added traction on slippery surfaces. Nature hide caption

itoggle caption Nature
'Toe silk' at the end of each leg of the Costa Rican zebra tarantula help give the animal traction.

"Toe silk" at the end of each leg of the Costa Rican zebra tarantula help give the animal added traction on slippery surfaces.

Nature

It's a discovery Spider-Man would love — scientists have discovered a type of tarantula that shoots webs from its toes. Researchers made the find during an experiment studying how spiders gain traction on surfaces.

According to an article in the latest edition of the magazine Nature, a technician at the Max Planck Institutes in Germany was prodding tarantulas to walk across glass plates.

When the technician wanted to take a break, he'd simply tilt the glass up at an angle. One day, the technician came back from his break and noticed something unusual — all eight legs of the Costa Rican zebra tarantula in the experiment had slipped, but at the tip of each foot was an array of strands of silk.

The toe silk strands are tiny — almost invisible — which is why nobody had noticed them before. Glands that make spider silk for webs are usually found inside the abdomen. Researchers say the toe silk clearly helps the spider keep its footing.

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