Jan. 30, 1998 Poughkeepsie, N.Y. Jan. 29, 1998 -- What child hasn't wondered how insects walk on water, easily climb walls, or hang from the undersides of smooth leaves, while humans clearly can not? Robert B. Suter, a Vassar College biology professor, is also fascinated by the world of "very, very small things." He set out to explain how fisher spiders and water striders walk on the water's surface.
In a study recently published in the "Journal of Experimental Biology," Suter, along with John H. Long, Jr., assistant professor of biology, and students Oren Rosenberg, Sandra Loeb, and Horatio Wildman used kinematic and mechanical experiments to show how fisher spiders can generate horizontal propulsive forces using their legs. This horizontal thrust is provided primarily by the drag of the leg and its associated dimple as both move across the water surface.
Suter's web site provides illustrations and photographs related to his research. His web address is http://faculty.vassar.edu/~suter/Suter.html.
The study was supported, in part, by funds provided by Vassar College through both the Undergraduate Research Summer Institute and the Class of '42 Faculty Research Fund.
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