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Morphological Evolution of Spiders Predicted by Pendulum Mechanics

AutorMoya-Laraño, Jordi ; Vinković, Dejan; Mas, Eva de ; Corcobado, Guadalupe ; Moreno, Eulalia
Fecha de publicación26-mar-2008
CitaciónPLoS ONE 3(3): e1841
Resumen[Background] Animals have been hypothesized to benefit from pendulum mechanics during suspensory locomotion, in which the potential energy of gravity is converted into kinetic energy according to the energy-conservation principle. However, no convincing evidence has been found so far. Demonstrating that morphological evolution follows pendulum mechanics is important from a biomechanical point of view because during suspensory locomotion some morphological traits could be decoupled from gravity, thus allowing independent adaptive morphological evolution of these two traits when compared to animals that move standing on their legs; i.e., as inverted pendulums. If the evolution of body shape matches simple pendulum mechanics, animals that move suspending their bodies should evolve relatively longer legs which must confer high moving capabilities.
[Methodology/Principal Findings] We tested this hypothesis in spiders, a group of diverse terrestrial generalist predators in which suspensory locomotion has been lost and gained a few times independently during their evolutionary history. In spiders that hang upside-down from their webs, their legs have evolved disproportionately longer relative to their body sizes when compared to spiders that move standing on their legs. In addition, we show how disproportionately longer legs allow spiders to run faster during suspensory locomotion and how these same spiders run at a slower speed on the ground (i.e., as inverted pendulums). Finally, when suspensory spiders are induced to run on the ground, there is a clear trend in which larger suspensory spiders tend to run much more slowly than similar-size spiders that normally move as inverted pendulums (i.e., wandering spiders).
[Conclusions/Significance] Several lines of evidence support the hypothesis that spiders have evolved according to the predictions of pendulum mechanics. These findings have potentially important ecological and evolutionary implications since they could partially explain the occurrence of foraging plasticity and dispersal constraints as well as the evolution of sexual size dimorphism and sociality.
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