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Spider Legs Build Webs Without the Brain's Help


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Even a spider with four shortened legs on one side could spin a perfect web.

University of Oxford researchers simulated the way each leg of a spider functions as a semi-independent "computer" with sensors that trigger movements based on environmental readings.

Credit: Fritz Vollrath, Thiemo Krink

Researchers at the U.K.'s University of Oxford have simulated the way each leg of a spider functions as a semi-independent "computer" with sensors that trigger movements based on environmental readings, allowing them to spin perfect webs with minimal brain use.

These findings could be applied to robotics, potentially saving computing power and time.

The study centers on the concept of morphological computation, in which a function is encoded in a body part and does not rely on the brain for instructions.

The researchers focused on spiders, as those that are molting regenerate broken-off legs and can build webs as quickly and perfectly as those with eight full-length legs.

They compared the actions of shorter and longer legs and inferred the underlying rules for how the legs move automatically to measure angles and lengths when building webs.

Those rules were tested by programming a simulated virtual spider.

From Scientific American
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Abstracts Copyright © 2021 SmithBucklin, Washington, DC, USA


 

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