What lives in the ocean?
Fish, dolphins, sea otters, whales, octopuses, plants, corals sea turtles and sea spiders. And plastic!
Marine creatures are vulnerable to fragments of plastic littering the world’s oceans. Big animals such as whales are ingesting microplastics. Microplastics are small fragments of plastic, less than 5 mm. There are different types of microplastics that can be found in the sea. Some are manufactured, like microbeads that can be added to beauty products, while are the result of larger plastics that are breaking down.
Biomimicry means to be inspired by nature. Combining ideas from different sources is one way to solve problems. We combined sea spiders with flying spiders to develop our idea for Super Siri Spider Sieve. This sieve can search for microplastic in the sea but it can also float in the air and collect tiny plastic fragments. It is powered by tiny solar cells.
A sea spider sitting on a gorgonian sea fan. Photo by Derek Keats via Flickr, Creative Commons License.
Combining ideas from sea spiders and ballooning
The inspiration for the Super Sally Sea Sieve came from sea spiders and the phenomenon ballooning that are used by spiders to fly long distances.
What is a sea spider?
A sea spider, just like many other spiders, usually have eight legs. The legs are long and attached to a small body. Sea spiders may look like the spiders that live on land (arachnids). But they are Pycnogonida, a special group of marine spiders that crawl along the ocean floor.
There are about 1 000 sea spider species, most sea spiders are small, 1 to 10 mm. But there are sea spiders that are as big as a dinner plate. Sea spiders have long legs and there are sea spiders with a leg span of more than 30 cm wide.
Photo by NOAA/Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute via Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain.
How can a spider fly?
Spiders have no wings but they can fly. Spiders are surprisingly one of the best aviators and they spin sails to catch the breeze – ballooning. Spiders can float away to escape from predators or toward new lands. Spiders have been found in unlikely places such as 4 000 meters up in the air and 1 600 km out to sea.
Previously, one common explanation for ballooning was that the silk that spiders spin catches on the wind and drags the spider with it. But spiders only balloon during light winds. It seems that gentle winds could not be strong enough to carry the largest species of spiders nor could the wind help the spiders to get the silk out. Spiders do not shoot silk from their abdomen.
Recent research suggests that spiders can sense electric fields and they use it to launch themselves into the air
Many people are scared of spiders. But they are fascinating creatures. Click here to read more about how to use spiders as inspiration.
Below is a link to a booklet that is perfect for young biomimicrists who like to explore the fascinating world of spiders.
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