Researchers created grippers that can grasp things from the carcasses of wolf spiders in a new discipline called “necrobotics.” The only thing the crew needed to do was insert a needle into the rear of a dead spider and superglue it in place. The cadaver’s legs clenched open and shut as fluid was pushed in and out of it, the researchers write in Advanced Science on July 25.
Faye Yap, a mechanical engineer at Rice University in Houston, notes that the inspiration for the idea came from a straightforward query. Why do dead spiders roll themselves in a ball?
The response is hydraulic machinery, like spiders. By pumping blood into their legs, they can adjust how far they extend. The legs of a dead spider curl because it no longer has that blood pressure.
We simply thought it was so wonderful, Yap recalled, and we wanted to take advantage of it.
Her team initially attempted to expand the dead wolf spiders by placing them in a double boiler filled with water in the hopes that this would cause the spiders to spread their legs. That was ineffective. However, the scientists discovered that they could manipulate a spider’s grasp effectively enough to remove wires from a circuit board and pick up other dead spiders when they directly injected fluid into a spider corpse. The necrobots did not start to become dehydrated or exhibit wear until after hundreds of usages.
See how this dead wolf spider-turned-“necrobot” gripper takes up another dead spider. By forcing fluid into and out of the spider it is hooked to, the attached syringe causes the corpse’s legs to open and close.
To prevent such reduction in the future, the researchers will cover spiders with a sealant. However, Yap claims that the next crucial step is to control each spider’s leg separately and, in doing so, learn more about how spiders’ function. Her team might then use their newfound knowledge to create better designs for other robots.
Bashir concurs that before becoming too proficient in it, scientists need to determine the morality of this type of bioengineering. How far do you go? he asks, is the question.
Rashid Bashir, a bioengineer at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign who was not involved in the current work, says “That would be very, very intriguing.” According to him, a spider corpse itself would probably have difficulties acting as a robot since its body would degrade over time and it would not work consistently like “hard robots.” However, engineers may learn a lot from spiders. Bashir claims that biology and nature can teach us a lot.
Yap is not a mad scientist, despite the whole reviving dead spider’s thing. She questions whether playing Frankenstein is appropriate, especially with spiders. When it comes to this kind of study, “no one talks about the ethics,” she claims.