We all know that many spiders spin webs in order to catch prey. This particular method of catching prey can be time consuming since a web-weaving spider has to wait until a bug stumbles into its sticky web. But not all spiders catch their meals in this manner. For example, Gnaphosids, or ground spiders as they are also known, catch prey by shooting silk at oblivious bugs. This hunting method allows ground spiders to actively hunt for prey instead of waiting for prey to become stuck on webs.

A recent study conducted by Jonas Wolff, from Macquarie University in Australia, has shed some light on how ground spiders are able to shoot silk while hunting. In comparison with other spiders, ground spiders have fewer silk secreting glands, but they also have much larger glands. These glands are also known as “spigots”. The spigots belonging to ground spiders are large enough to expel copious amounts of silk at one time. These larger spigots also enable ground spiders to shoot their silk with a force great enough to reach long distances.

The researchers heading up the study placed ground spiders into plastic containers with other bugs in order to gain a better understanding of the ground spiders hunting strategies. The researchers learned, that in most cases, ground spiders will resort to shooting silk in order to capture prey. However, in many cases, ground spiders will simply attack their prey directly, and without the assistance of their silk.

The experiment showed that ground spiders will almost always attempt to physically subdue their prey at first, but after a struggle, ground spiders usually resort to their dense silk to ensure domination over their enemies. This is especially true during times when ground spiders are attempting to overpower enemies that are larger than the ground spiders themselves. Ground spiders remain an understudied group of spiders, and researchers are only now beginning to learn about the peculiarities inherent in their nature.

Had you ever witnessed a spider attempt to overpower and kill another arthropod that was physically larger than the attacking spider?