Seen as a spider collects water, presumably to dip its meal like a cookie in milk

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A long-jawed spider holding a drop of water in its mouth.

A long-jawed spider holding a drop of water in its mouth.
Photography: Young Swee Ming (Shutterstock)

If you’re a person who loves barbecue, few things are more disappointing than nibbling on a hard, dry chest. Now, new scientific observations suggest that some spiders might feel the same way about their clumps bugs.

Researchers recently documented a spider carrying a drop of water from a small pond into its web. They suspects the spider was using a drop to rehydrate his half-eaten, silk-wrapped prey to suck more food out of it.

One night in late December 2020, John Gould – a behavioral biologist from the University of Newcastle in Australia – was on Kooragang Island in southeastern Australia, exploring the area in search of an endangered frog species. Near the short-lived pool, he spotted a long-jawed ball weaver spider (Tetragnatha) hangs in a net anchored in some vegetation. About two minutes later, Gould watched the spider suddenly “descend” to the surface of the pond, pull a large ball of water into its jaws and rush back with a silk line in seconds.

A long-jawed spider holding a drop of water in its mouth.

A long-jawed spider holding a drop of water in its mouth.
Photography: Young Swee Ming (Shutterstock)

As soon as the spider climbed onto its liquid cargo web, Gould knew he had “seen something really unusual.”

He watched as the spider returned its jaws to the shriveled, partially dried-out insect it was feeding on, droplets, and everything. First-from-theirs-kind observations were Published in the journal Ethology in January.

Ants are known to move water while rescuing flooded nests, and bees and wasps can move water droplets around to manipulate the heating and cooling of their colonies. But this ball weaver seems to be the first spider shown to take water for departure, catching it on the surface-Nalgene tension.

Long lip apparatus of the long-jawed spider (Tetragnatha montana).

Long lip parts of long jaw spider (Tetragnatha montana).
Photography: Cornel Constantin (Shutterstock)

Spiders exist on a liquid diet from previously digested beetle porridge, but they also drink water. However, they are generally cautious sippers, drinking casually in puddles or dew. Transporting around the ball of things on their face is a little more complicated.

“These behaviors happen so fast, I’m not surprised they don’t see each other often or aren’t filmed,” Gould said in an email to Gizmod.

Although it is currently unknown whether other spiders carry water, it is possible that spiders have long jawsS ‘aptly named bitey parts facilitated the talent. Proportionally, TetragnathaThe jaws are huge, extending from an eight-eyed cup like a pair of prickly, armored bananas, each with the tip of a poison pickaxe.

“The jaws act almost like a plate that holds water as they travel,” he said Gould.

Gould and his colleagues think the spider may have deliberately watered its prey to help feed. Spiders eat by liquefaction the inside of the beetles they captured, and flooding a meal that has become too much like minced meat could help put more nutrients into the solution. It can also help replenish moisture lost by the spider itself.

“[It’s] a bit like how we could add more water to rehydrate rice we left out for too long or fill a cup of water to rehydrate while we finish a meal, ”he said Joseph Valdez, biologist at the German Center for Integrative Biodiversity Research in Leipzig and co-author New paper.

Tetragnatha nigrita, a species of long-jawed weaver similar to that found on Kooragang Island 2020.

Injecting extra digestive enzymes into the carcass costs both calories and water, so a spider version of dipping Orea into milk could be a relatively inexpensive strategy to get more out of killing.

“It’s really cool,” he said Dinesh Rao, a behavioral ecologist from the University of Veracruz in Mexico who was are not included in the study. “I agree with them. I do not think [water transport has] recorded before”In spiders.

Rao pointed out there are some spiders thought yes use their nets as water collection devices, but active water transport so far seems unreported.

But since this is based on a single observation, there may be alternative explanations for the behavior, Rao noticed. Instead of rehydrating prey for consumption, moistening the meal could be part of a defensive measure to keep other spiders from poaching it. The purpose could also be to flush out insect toxins. Or, soaking silk-bound prey is a habit that prevents prey from fighting too much, as there is evidence that water droplets in the net help capture prey in other contexts.

It is clear that observations on Kooragang Island areoff point for the future, more targeted studies of water collection in spiders. For Gould and Valdez, the key next steps are figuring out how common this behavior is Tetragnatha and other spiders where this had not been appreciated before.

Discovery, he said Valdez, “proves how much we don’t know about the nature around us and everything we can learn if we just learn to stop and look.”

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