It’s kind of an unwritten rule that creatures with itty-bitty paws can never really be too scary, even if there’s eight of these said paws tapping about.
Like many people, I suffer from arachnophobia. There is nothing which chills my blood more than when I squint at a dark splodge on the wall, only to realise its a big, hairy spider come to stay the night.
I find them interesting from a distance, but in my bedroom – in my hand – absolutely not a chance. However, I do admit I’ve warmed to them slightly after getting a close up glimpse of their tootsies.
You may not be aware, but spiders actually have teensy-weensy paddy paws. Kind of like a puppy or kitten but on a far tinier scale. This paw – known as a tarsus – is just one of the eight parts which make up the notorious creepy leg of the spider.
Much like your own cat or dog, these paws have little claws which allowing them to get a good grip. And just like everything to do with arachnids, these deceptively minuscule feet are very, very clever indeed.
These paws help spiders to sense changes in their surroundings, allowing them to evade danger.
A spider’s tarsus allows them to detect sounds and smells, keeping them safe to tip-toe around another day. Seeing as though spiders don’t have antenna to guide them, their fluffy feet make for a crucial sensory tool.
According to Cosmos, the soft pads of hair around a spider’s claws are called ‘claw tufts’, and can be found among spider families capable of running up vertical surfaces such as walls and glass.
Each individual hair in the claw tuft is covered by hundreds of thousands of even tinier hairs (known as setules) which can only be seen when using an electron microscope.
The larger the spider, the hairier the feet, allowing spiders to climb surfaces using the power of electrical attraction.
Speaking with Cosmos, Robert Raven, head arachnologist at the Queensland Museum said:
If you are big you can get those beautiful big, dense iridescent pads as with the Idiommata; or you can get lighter, thus needing less, as in the case of huntsman spiders, which are among the few spider groups – along with jumping spiders – that can run upside down on ceilings and dangle off them with a toad in their fangs.
No doubt close-ups of spider feet (or ‘toe beans’ as some have called them) will help to change scaredy-cats’ minds about this spooky species.
However, as cute as this revelation is, it will admittedly take a hell of lot more than this to make me want to cuddle up with a tarantula…
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Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.