Spiders’ Ballooning Flight as a Model for the Exploration of Hazardous Atmospheric Weather Conditions
Passive flight in living things, such as in maple or dandelion seeds, is one of the most primitive methods of aerial dispersal. This mechanism is robust and efficient, as it utilizes the present wind conditions. Passive flight is used not only by plant seeds but also by some animals. Spiders use fine, flexible silk filaments to fly, a behavior known as ballooning. This capability is distinct from that of other winged insects, as some ballooning spiders can travel hundreds of kilometers, reaching as high as 4.5 km above sea level. Various hypotheses explain the physical mechanism of ballooning flight. Some studies have shown that turbulent flow in the atmospheric boundary layer enhances spiders’ flight endurance. This mechanism may be usefully applied in the exploration of hazardous weather conditions, such as severe storms, tornadoes, and clear-air turbulence, in the atmosphere, if we scale them up. In this paper, the authors briefly introduce the flight characteristics of the ballooning structure (i.e., the spider body and silk filaments), which were revealed in a simulation using a bead-spring model, and examine the possibility of scaling up ballooning flight from 25 mg to 1–2.5 kg for the exploration of hazardous weather conditions in the atmosphere.
KeywordsBallooning spider Passive flight Hurricane Clear-air turbulence Atmospheric boundary layer
MS.C. was supported by the state of Berlin’s Elsa Neumann Scholarship (T61004) during this study.
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