For years, science know-it-alls laughed at Spider-Man because, of course, real spiders produce silk in their abdomens, not their hands. Most insects and arachnids use tiny hooks or sticky pads on their feet to climb walls; they don’t cling to things using silk. At least, that’s what we used to think.
Now studies are showing that tarantulas, being too big to hold themselves to walls with tiny claws alone, actually do produce silk in the tips of their feet. A small amount of silk keeps them secure, even if the surface they’re climbing begins to shake, and traces of that silk remain after they’ve moved on.
I’m surprised we went so long without discovering this. It’s not like tarantulas are some exotic, new creature just discovered in the depths of the rainforest; people have kept them as pets for decades! Apparently those traces of silk were found earlier, but scientists at the time assumed the tarantula produced them in its abdomen and attached the material to its feet as it climbed. Another example of the danger in making assumptions.
Of course science fiction often predicts major discoveries well before actual science has a clue. Spider-Man is now entirely plausible. Well, the radioactive spider bite is still kinda silly, but at least science backs up some of his powers.
For more information on tarantula’s and their amazing feet, click here. There is also conflicting evidence, which may prove tarantulas don’t produce silk from their feet after all. For that, click here.