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Title: External power amplification drives prey capture in a spider web
Power amplification allows animals to produce movements that exceed the physiological limits of muscle power and speed, such as the mantis shrimp’s ultrafast predatory strike and the flea’s jump. However, all known examples of nonhuman, muscle-driven power amplification involve anatomical structures that store energy from a single cycle of muscular contraction. Here, we describe a nonhuman example of external power amplification using a constructed device: the web of the triangle-weaver spider, Hyptiotes cavatus , which uses energy stored in the silk threads to actively tangle prey from afar. Hyptiotes stretches its web by tightening a separate anchor line over multiple cycles of limb motion, and then releases its hold on the anchor line when insects strike the web. Both spider and web spring forward 2 to 3 cm with a peak acceleration of up to 772.85 m/s 2 so that up to four additional adhesive capture threads contact the prey while jerking caused by the spider’s sudden stop subsequently wraps silk around the prey from all directions. Using webs as external “tools” to store energy offers substantial mechanical advantages over internal tissue-based power amplification due to the ability of Hyptiotes to load the web over multiple cycles of muscular contraction more » and thus release more stored energy during prey capture than would be possible with muscle-driven anatomical elastic-energy systems. Elastic power amplification is an underappreciated component of silk’s function in webs and shows remarkable convergence to the fundamental mechanical advantages that led humans to engineer power-amplifying devices such as catapults and ballistae. « less
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Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
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National Science Foundation
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