Kind of similar in shape to dog or cat paws, these tiny tootsies apparently serve a lot of interesting purposes.
If asked to describe a spider, "cute" isn't a word most of us would go for. With way too many legs and scary pincers, there's nothing about spiders that's even remotely adorable. Or that's what we believed until we saw a super close-up shot of a spider foot. As it turns out, arachnids have tiny paw-like feet that could actually make you go "awww..." Kind of similar in shape to dog or cat paws, these tiny tootsies apparently serve a lot of interesting purposes. But before we get into how resourceful they are, take a look at these itty-bitty paws:
Isn't that just the cutest thing you've ever seen?! Netizens first became aware of how adorable spider feet are a couple of years ago when photographer Michael Pankratz's macro shot of a spider's furry foot went viral on social media. While the internet crooned over its new obsession, arachnologist Norman Platnick, curator emeritus at the American Museum of Natural History, spoke to Mother Nature Network about all the cool things spider feet can do.
Platnick clarified that "the similarity to dogs or cats is only in the mind of the beholder." While all spiders have some hair-like structures, called setae, on their legs, not all have claw tufts i.e. the hairy areas surrounding claws at the end of their legs. "About half of the spider families have claw tufts. These animals usually have only two claws at the tips of their legs and are usually hunting spiders, who pursue their prey. Web-building spiders typically have three claws; the two paired claws, like those found in hunting spiders, plus a third, smaller, unpaired claw that helps them maneuver on their silk threads," said Platnick.
Spider paw pic.twitter.com/7LSqIoKncb— brad, the guy who really loves his friends (@f_r_a_n_k_k_) September 17, 2017
"The claw tufts of these spiders provide additional adhesive properties, making it easier for the animals to climb. For example, many tarantulas can even climb up glass, despite their relatively heavyweight," he added. As the tiny hairs on their feet are small and flexible, spiders are able to make contact with more surface area which helps them effortlessly cling to it even when upside-down.
"Permanent attachment systems, like glue, are often much stronger and not reusable, whereas temporary attachment systems, like hairy adhesive pads, can be used multiple times [and] adhere strongly enough to hold the animal, but the contact can be loosened very quickly and effortlessly," explained Jonas Wolff, a biologist at the University of Kiel in Germany. If all this wasn't cool enough, spiders also have the ability to use the hair on their legs for sensory purposes. "For example, many spiders have trichobothria [vertical hairs] that are extremely sensitive to both airborne and substrate vibrations (i.e., they 'hear' with their feet). Many spiders also have modified setae that are chemosensory (i.e., they also 'smell' with their feet)," Platnick revealed.