Spider Power

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It's hard to be scared of spiders, because no matter how many legs they have, at the end of the day, look at how much bigger you are. The size of your feet will always trump the amount of poison they may have stored up in their tiny bodies. They're not superheroes or anything. In reality, spiders are more like Spider-Man than we think. Though they have yet to master the make-out session, they have racked up some other pretty crazy abilities. Such as ...

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Illusions

Some spiders, incredibly, have been observed taking dead bugs and webs and constructing life-size models of themselves to distract predatory wasps.

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Illusions
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To defend themselves, orb spiders build body doubles out of bug corpses and silk. To us it looks like bundles of junk have cluttered up their webs, but to predators those lumps of moldering insect pieces look just like lunch. That's because orb spiders, like all spiders, have bodies that reflect ultraviolet rays. By wrapping up bundles of trash with UV webbing, orb spiders are creating decoys that are not only the same size, but also the same color. The dummy spiders are such a good distraction that wasps will attack the wrong target 60 percent of the time. They're basically guessing.

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Possibly even more unusual, the common garden spider has been known to trick insects into thinking its web is a flower. It turns out that flowers give bees and other insects explicit instructions on where to find the good stuff. They use UV coloring to highlight their nectar snatch. Striations in their petals that botanists describe as a "bull's-eye pattern" guide pollinators exactly where they need to go. It's like landing lights for bugs.

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Glue Lasso

The bolas spider is a night hunter that uses webbing to catch its prey, like most spiders, but with a unique twist: It produces a cord of silk with a sticky glob of glue weighing down one end. This spider makes a lasso, or bolas, that it twirls around with one of its spindly legs to fling at passing moths. It's like fishing for pterodactyls with a bungee cord and a grappling hook.

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Glue Lasso
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To lure the moths in, the bolas spider can produce the pheromones that sexy female moths give off (so yes, only the males get eaten). And not just one type of moth, either. Researchers discovered that at different times the spider will produce different chemicals to call to the moth species that is currently active. When they get close enough...

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And to be even more deceptive, some bolas spiders have eye spots on their backs to mimic the face of the moths they hunt.

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Toxic Web Shooter

Spiders can bring the battle to their enemies from a distance; in fact, spiders have evolved multiple types of missile attacks. The green lynx spider, for example, is known to spit venom like a freaking cobra. This half-inch-long spider can hurl venom about 5 inches, or roughly 10 times its body length. Though the poison isn't fatal to humans, there's at least one report of a soldier taking a squirt to the eye and being blinded for two days.

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Toxic Web Shooter
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To make sure the prey is subdued, because everyone knows that spraying you in the face with poison is just child's play, spitting spiders have been observed swaying in a Z pattern while they fire, maximizing the spray. It's your standard Super Soaker rules.

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Spidersault

Not all spiders laze the day away in a fortress of adhesive webbing, surrounded by the dying screams of mummified insects. Some actually go out and hunt for a living. And while you've got to be fast to catch prey, you've got to be even faster to escape predators.

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Spidersault
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Enter the golden wheel spider, which has a special defense to escape its erstwhile archnemesis: cartwheels.It might not be the most dignified or manly escape method, but it is effective. "Taking advantage of the steep slip-faces of the dunes it lives on, when threatened, the golden wheel spider will curl its legs around its body to make a ball." It will then basically tire roll down the slope to safety.

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Blade Fangs

Grasshoppers, beetles and spiders all have something in common: They crunch when you smash them. That's because they're covered in chitin. Insects, arachnids, crustaceans and lots of other creatures have exoskeletons composed of this material - it's the bug equivalent of bone, only it's on the outside.

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Blade Fangs
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To kill its prey, a spider has to get through this armor. And since spiders are composed of the same stuff, their fangs are also made of chitin ... which is a problem. To pierce an object, your blade has to be harder than the substance you're going through. Scientists, wondering how spiders dealt with this quandary, looked at the fangs of the feared Brazilian wandering spider, one of the deadliest arachnids in the world.

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Chemical analysis and X-ray detection showed that their fangs have metal atoms dispersed throughout, mainly copper, magnesium, iron and zinc. The metals accumulate each time the spiders molt, meaning that older spiders have harder fangs.

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Biometals in bugs isn't new; leafcutter ants have a small percentage of zinc in their mandibles. But amazingly enough, almost no chitin was found in the tips of wandering spider fangs. The points, which have to endure the most stress, were composed almost entirely of metal. They literally have evolved hypodermic needles for fangs. Wandering spiders have metallically reinforced poison-injecting blades built into their faces.

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Bionic Ninja Legs

In the pantheon of superpowers, one normally doesn't put "super legs" at the top. At first blush, it would seem fairly unlikely that this would ever be useful. But in reality, spider legs have a number of incredible adaptations. Spiders are designed for crawling, climbing, skittering and all-around creepiness. Jumping, not so much. Leaping about is more the domain of muscular-legged bugs like crickets and grasshoppers. Which is why it's all the more amazing that the spider known as Portia fimbriata can essentially catapult itself at prey. It can hurl itself up to 50 times its own body length (if you did it, it would be about 300 feet, or the length of a football field). That's farther than most grasshoppers can hop.

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Bionic Ninja Legs
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The most amazing ability found in spider legs goes to the tarantula, which logic would dictate is far too large to do things like walk up a wall. Incredibly, they have micro spinnerets on the bottom of their feet. To walk up walls, they can actually shoot small amounts of webbing out of their feet to stick, which helps them adhere to nearly any surface, including glass.

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The spitting spider does things differently: It can actually fire sticky silk out of its fangs. Not just its backside (after all, most spiders shoot their webs out of their spider butts), but out of its very mouth. Yes, web shooters actually exist.

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