A spider named Kim was trained to jump on demand for scientists who want to learn the secrets of their acrobatic skills.
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Kim is a royal jumping spider – Phidippus regius – a species known for its amazing jumps.
Jumping spiders that are up to two centimeters long can be tied up to six times as long as a normal body. By comparison, the best thing a human can achieve is about 1.5 body lengths.
At launch, the power on the spider legs equals five times the body weight of the creature.
Senior Scientist Mostafa Nabawy from Manchester University said, "This is amazing, and if we can understand this biomechanics, we can apply it to other research areas."
Dr. Nabawy's team trained Kim to skip different heights and distances on an artificial laboratory platform]. Their jumps were recorded using ultra-high-speed cameras. Scientists also used spider micro-scans to create a virtual 3D model of their legs and body structure.
The results, published in the journal Nature Scientific Reports, show that Kim used different jumping strategies depending on the challenge set
For short distances, she preferred a faster, lower trajectory that consumed more energy but flight time minimized. This made the jump more precise and effective for catching prey.
Longer-distance jumps, such as those used to cross rough terrain, were slower and more energy-efficient. Insects and spiders jump in various ways, such as mechanisms, direct muscle forces, or internal fluid pressure.
Spiders are known to use the hydraulic fluid pressure system to extend their legs, but what role this played in jumping was unknown.
Study co-author Dr Bill Crowther, also from the University, said, "Our findings suggest that while Kim is able to move her legs hydraulically, she does not need the extra power from the hydraulics to achieve her extraordinary jumping performance."