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Meet the Trap-Jaw Spider: The Arachnid That Kills At Lightning Speed, Has ‘Super-Spider’ Powers

Apr 12, 2016 04:43 AM EDT

A tiny, ground-dwelling spider native to New Zealand and South America suddenly made it to the headlines due to its lighting speed and "super-spider" powers.

Mecysmaucheniidae spiders or trap-jaw spiders are known to rely on hunting rather than web-building to capture their prey. However, what researchers don't know is the amazing ability of this spider to attack its prey instantaneously.

A recent study published in the journal Current Biology was conducted in order to shed some light on the trap-jaw spider's remarkable ability to strike its prey at lightning speed.

The study's lead author, Hannah Wood, curator of spiders at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, has first taken an interest in trap-jaw spider due to their unusual chelicerae and carapace, as per Smithsonian Magazine. The chelicerae of trap-jaw spiders, unlike other spiders, are elongated and maneuverable, while their carapace or their front region appears almost neck-like.

Wood also noted that the trap-jaw spider can wide open their jaws when hunting. When their meal is within reach, their jaws snap close like a mouse trap. Due to the extreme speed of the trap-jaw spider, Wood had to use a high-speed camera to capture the elusive moment that the spider attacks its prey.

According to the press release of Cell Press via EurekAlert, Wood managed to record high-speed videos of the 14 species of Mecysmaucheniidae spiders. She then found out that the speed of the jaw-snapping varies among species. The fastest bite happens at 0.12 milliseconds, which is 100 times faster than the slowest.

Another amazing thing about the trap-jaw spider is its ability to exert power that exceeds the output of their muscles. Which means that the power generated during the snapping of their jaws was not produced by their tiny muscles but uses stored energy.

Researchers believe that the structural mechanism of trap-jaw spiders allows them to store energy. Some anatomical differences were found among the species with over-powered trap-jaw spiders, which led researchers to believe that these spiders have undergone series of independent and repeated evolutions.

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