5 of Spider-Man’s More Outlandish Abilities That Real Spiders Actually Use
Warning: This post is full of spiders.
Spider-Man: Homecoming finally hits theaters later this week, and it’s bringing a wall-crawler to the big screen with more gadgets than he’s ever had before. He does everything a spider can and way more, though that’s already seemed like the case with some of his powers that push the boundaries of our suspension of disbelief. As it turns out, spiders may do more of what a Spider-Man can than you might have guessed.
Whether that’s frightening or terrifying is kind of up to personal opinion. Spider-Man may be my favorite super hero, but I’m not nearly as fond of actual spiders, which is a fairly common opinion. Be warned, you may have been happier not knowing about some of the spectacular powers of spiders.
1. Web Slingshot
This one’s a pretty common Spidey move, appearing in both the best Spider-Man movie (pictured above), Spider-Man 2, and the video game of the same name, which introduced the now-expected “realistic” web-slinging mechanics that made the game so much fun. This particular move is not so much fun for mosquitos and other insects that are usually able to avoid getting stuck in spiders’ webs, though, when tiny “ray spiders” use it to fly forward at incredible speed and snare their prey.
They hang onto their web, though, since their goal is catching some dinner rather than travel across New York, but you can see the similarities in action right here:
2. Web Parachute
But what about actual flying, rather than just launching himself into the air and falling with style?That’s one area where real spiders seem to have Spider-Man beat. Whether or not it’s believable that he’d be able to construct one on the fly while falling at very high speeds, the web parachute is another campy old-school comic invention that real spiders got to first.
They’re even better at it. As anyone who’s ever read Charlotte’s Web knows, locked away somewhere in an oh-so-painful memory, spiders can catch enough wind with their webs to actually take off and fly around, albeit out of their own control.
They’ve even used this enhanced version of the web parachute trick to travel to faraway islands and colonize them. There is officially nowhere you can hide from spiders.
3. Underwater Air Sacks
This is another ability where real spiders may actually outdo the radioactive -man ones. Spider-Man can canonically hold his breath longer than the average person, mentioned at least once (while fighting Sandman, I think, but I could be remembering wrong) during some of the hero’s earliest comic book adventures, but sometimes he needs a little extra help in the form of a web bag full of air.
It’s usually not fully explained how exactly he’s using his webs for extra time beneath the waves, but some actual spiders go beyond just carrying air underwater with them and actually use their webs like a fish’s gills to extract oxygen from the water. This allows them to stay underwater sustained by only a single trip to the surface in a day, so a few minutes of hiding for Spidey is more than reasonable.
Seriously, there is nowhere you can hide.
4. Web Shooting
That’s right; we’ve reached the signature Spider-Man move when it comes to jokes about the absurdity of his powers, probably because kids take such delight in pointing out that real spiders’ webs come out of an area not at all near their wrists. Beyond that, Spiders don’t fire web out in a strand to attach to distant buildings … or do they?
While they don’t have their own, high-powered internal web propulsion, spiders—much like their flying trick—use the wind to enable them to sling webs to faraway places. If you’ve ever walked through a spider web somewhere and thought, “How the heck did it get a web across a distance that far?” after you finished your initial freakout, now you know. There are spiders, all over the place, climbing to high places and playing Spider-Man in slow motion thanks to the wind. It’s how they’re able to form webs between trees on the opposite sides of wide bodies of water:
I uh … just found out that this power is being downplayed in the Homecoming version of Spider-Man, so I’m having a bit of a moment, but it’s not completely ridiculous to suggest that spiders can sense danger. They aren’t quite as prescient as as the super-powered version, but they use their webs, along with specialized hairs called trichobothria, that can sense vibrations and air currents.
Spider-Man even explicitly experienced that for himself in the Amazing Spider-Man pre-Brand New Day comic book era, when his powers became temporarily enhanced.
These aren’t the only Spider-Man abilities that exist among real spiders, including his wall-crawling and its use of van der Waals forces, but I tried to pick some that you may not have even realized existed in the wild. If there’s anything a spider can do that’s surprising and wasn’t covered here, feel free to discuss in the comments below, preferably with pictorial or video evidence that we can all get creeped out by!
(featured image: Sony Pictures Releasing)
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