Do spiders have super powers?

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1. Spider super powers

Over 350 million years, spiders have evolved some impressive skills. Size for size, if spiders were as big as humans, some of these skills could be considered superhuman.

All spiders produce silk, but not all spiders make webs. It is this that divides spiders into two groups: weavers and hunters. Generally, web builders are poor sighted and wait for their prey to come to them. The hunting spiders rely on speed and relatively good eyesight to capture prey.

It's among these hunters that some of the most extraordinary powers are most evident. But the web builders have the power of one of nature’s strongest biomaterials to build their homes and trap their prey - silk.

2. Super silk

Silk is one of the strongest biomaterials in nature.

Silk is five times stronger than steel, and more than equal to Kevlar, the strongest man-made material. Chris Packham reveals its many forms and its alleged ability to stop a Boeing 747 in flight. Clip from Autumnwatch, 2010 (BBC Two)

3. Underwater survival

Spiders can survive underwater for days

Spider setae (hairs) are hydrophobic so when submerged they trap a film of air against the body, acting as an oxygen supply. Amazingly this bubble acts as a gill for a few hours, with oxygen from the water diffusing into the bubble and allowing the spiders to breathe underwater.

Due to the laws of physics, this bubble will gradually decrease in size and so the spider has a finite time. If the spider stops moving, it can breathe for hours, though if it's hunting it runs out faster.

Raft spiders have a maximum 20 minutes underwater before they have to replenish the supply. The length of time a spider can survive from this bubble depends on its size and type of hairs. The wolf spider, Arctosa fulvolineata, can survive 36 hours submersion, before drying off and walking away unharmed.

4. Flying spiders

Spiders may not have wings to fly in the conventional sense, but they have been found thousands of feet high, and can travel for hundreds of miles. David Attenborough explains how.

Spiderlings use a technique known as ballooning to get airbourne. Clip from Life in the Undergrowth (BBC Two)

5. The perfect predator

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Spiders have similarly named body parts to humans, but they exist and operate in an intriguingly different way that's honed for hunting. Find out how by clicking on the labels around this wonderful jumping spider.

6. Humans vs spiders

Infographic comparing four spider powers to those of humans

Size for size spiders would overpower us with overwhelming strength and agility.

7. Spider fact or fiction?

Spiders and their silk have some amazing powers, but which of the super spider facts below are true?

Goats produce spider silk

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True

The transgenic spidergoat is a genetically modified goat designed to secrete the spider silk protein in its milk, allowing for large scale production.

Silk makes skin bulletproof

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True

Research group in Europe is working on using spider silk, interwoven with human skin, to make skin bulletproof.

Webs conduct electricity

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True

Spider webs actively spring towards prey thanks to electrically conductive glue spread across their surface.

Largest spider is over 1.5m

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Unknown

Scientists have found only anecdotal evidence of a 1.5m Congolese giant spider; goliath bird eating spider at 32cm is the largest spider recorded so far.