Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Spiders in space: Researchers observe arachnid habits in a microgravity environment

Date:
May 1, 2011
Source:
NASA/Johnson Space Center
Summary:
The very idea of spiders in space brings to mind campy, black and white horror films involving eight-legged monsters. In actuality, it is a scientific investigation called Commercial Generic Bioprocessing Apparatus Science Insert-05 or CSI-05, in which researchers observe arachnid habits in a microgravity environment. This is the second spider investigation on the International Space Station -- the first was CSI-03 -- and researchers have high hopes that the sequel will eclipse the original.

View of Nephila clavipes (golden orb spider) inside the spider habitat.
Credit: Image courtesy of BioServe

The very idea of spiders in space brings to mind campy, black and white horror films involving eight-legged monsters. In actuality, it is a scientific investigation called Commercial Generic Bioprocessing Apparatus Science Insert-05 or CSI-05, in which researchers observe arachnid habits in a microgravity environment. This is the second spider investigation on the International Space Station -- the first was CSI-03 -- and researchers have high hopes that the sequel will eclipse the original.

Scheduled to launch with STS-134, the spider habitat will transfer from the space shuttle Endeavour to the space station. Once aboard, the crew will place the two habitats into the Commercial Generic Bioprocessing Apparatus or CGBA. This equipment will maintain a consistent temperature, humidity and lighting cycle for the spiders and their sustenance supply of fruit flies. The CGBA also controls imaging for the investigation.

The spider pair currently planned for investigation with CSI-05 are both golden orb spiders (Nephila clavipes), which spin a three dimensional, asymmetric web. This is different from the two orb spiders (Larinioides patagiatus and Metepeira) that launched to the space station on STS-126, which were selected specifically for the symmetry of their web formation. Scientists are looking to see if and how the arachnids will spin their webs differently in microgravity. The results will help them to understand the behavioral role of gravity for the spiders and their fruit fly companions.

"I think people can relate to everyday insects and they can understand why the experiment is of interest," said Stefanie Countryman, coordinator for CSI-05. "Plus, the visual aspects of this experiment make it very appealing to the general public."

When a sequel does top the original, in science as in movies, it usually has something to do with lessons learned during the first production. The CSI-03 investigation, for instance, was unfortunately restricted to eight days, due to the spiders' fruit flies food 'sliming' the observation window. This obscured the view inside the habitat and limited the study. For CSI-05, which is funded by the National Space Biomedical Research Institute or NSBRI and the NASA National Lab Education Office, the fruit flies will have a separate compartment from the spiders. The crew will slowly introduce the flies -- approximately every four days -- into the two individual spider habitats, which should allow for clear imagery through the viewing window for the full 45-day duration of the investigation.

The fruit flies are not, however, simply nourishment for the spiders. They are actually a secondary study themselves. Scientists plan to look at their mobility over time to see if and how they react to the microgravity environment. They should be able to observe growth, behavioral and flight patterns as the flies develop.

There also is an important education element to this investigation, sponsored by Baylor College of medicine Center for Educational Outreach and Orion's Quest. While the N. clavipes is spinning in space, students on Earth will develop and observe their own spider habitats. Teachers can use a curriculum found on bioedonline.org. This Web site includes daily images sent from the space station to the BioServe Payload Operations and Control Center. This allows students to compare their spiders' spinning habits to those of the spiders in microgravity in near real time. Orion's Quest Web site -- orionsquest.org -- will focus on the habits of the fruit flies in space.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by NASA/Johnson Space Center. The original article was written by Jessica Nimon, International Space Station Program Science Office. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

NASA/Johnson Space Center. "Spiders in space: Researchers observe arachnid habits in a microgravity environment." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 May 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110430143837.htm>.
NASA/Johnson Space Center. (2011, May 1). Spiders in space: Researchers observe arachnid habits in a microgravity environment. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 16, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110430143837.htm
NASA/Johnson Space Center. "Spiders in space: Researchers observe arachnid habits in a microgravity environment." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110430143837.htm (accessed April 16, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Ebola Outbreak Now Linked To 121 Deaths

Ebola Outbreak Now Linked To 121 Deaths

Newsy (Apr. 15, 2014) The ebola virus outbreak in West Africa is now linked to 121 deaths. Health officials fear the virus will continue to spread in urban areas. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
In Washington, a Push to Sterilize Stray Cats

In Washington, a Push to Sterilize Stray Cats

AFP (Apr. 14, 2014) To curb the growing numbers of feral cats in the US capital, the Washington Humane Society is encouraging residents to set traps and bring the animals to a sterilization clinic, after which they are released.. Duration: 02:29 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
After Attack, Officials Kill 5 Bears in Florida

After Attack, Officials Kill 5 Bears in Florida

AP (Apr. 14, 2014) Florida wildlife officials say they have killed five bears following an attack on a woman in a suburban subdivision in central Florida. Forty-five year-old Terri Frana was attacked by a large bear in her driveway Saturday. (April 14) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Uruguay Opens Its First Cannabis Library

Uruguay Opens Its First Cannabis Library

AFP (Apr. 13, 2014) Uruguay opened its first Cannabis Library in Montevideo on Saturday, where people can come and read books on cannabis or take classes on how to grow the plant or even how to cook with it. Duration: 01:20 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins