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HOME > PAST ISSUE > March-April 1999 > Article Detail

FEATURE ARTICLE

Walking on Water

Fishing spiders move over water in ways that appear perplexing, yet the mechanics of their locomotion yield readily to experimental analysis

Robert Suter

Figure 2. Fishing spiderClick to Enlarge Image

The Fishing Spider is able to propel itself over the surface of water using one of several distinctive gaits. Rapid movement typically entails a "gallop," in which the spider breaks entirely free from the surface for a part of each stride, just as a galloping horse or cat does. For more leisurely travel, the spider "rows," using four of its legs as pontoons and the other four as oars. This gait is perhaps the more enigmatic, in that four legs must act as frictionless supports while the other four gain enough hold to power the animal forward. Careful laboratory study reveals the physical principles behind this curious form of locomotion.


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