VSL:SCIENCE // Meet Mother Nature’s answer to the dune buggy

Scientists know about three spiders that roll, rather than walk, down sand dunes. Now they’ve found one that propels itself with handsprings.

Araneus rota, or the rolling Sahara spider, was discovered by a Berlin Technical University bionics engineer named Ingo Rechenberg. Rechenberg, who was searching the Sahara for natural phenomena that might be applied to engineering problems, noticed the spider when it rolled across his flashlight beam: The palm-size arachnid gets a running start and flings itself into a continuous cartwheel, which can move it along at almost 5 mph. Rechenberg’s studying that motion now as a possible model for vehicles designed to move across the surface of Mars.

Editor’s note: We’re very pleased to have been nominated for a Webby Award! Please take a moment to click on the link below and vote for us. Voting ends this Thursday.

This post is from Observer Short List—an email of three favorite things from people you want to know. Sign up to receive OSL here. VSL:SCIENCE // Meet Mother Nature’s answer to the dune buggy