Originally published on Savvy Auntie.
With the launch of the fourth Spider-Man film, The Amazing Spider-Man, now is the perfect time to start a conversation about Peter Parker and spiders – or arachnids – with your nieces and nephews. When Peter Parker, Spider-Man’s alter ego, gets bitten by a spider, he is envenomated with radioactive chemicals that transform him into a superhero – a Spider-Man with superhuman strength and agility, the ability to cling to surfaces and scale walls, and a spider’s sense of danger.
While your nieces and nephews may already be well-aware of Spider-Man’s capability, one question you can pose to spark an interesting discussion is the following: How do Spider-Man’s abilities compare to those of a real spider?
Here is what the National Wildlife Federation has to say:
Strength and Agility
Spider-Man is famed for his web-suspended swings from building-to-building over city streets. You can find examples of equally amazing leaps and bounds among real arachnids if you take a look at the jumping spiders. In a single leap a jumping spider can cover as much as 50 times its own length. It does so by using a powerful internal muscle that blasts fluids from the body into the legs, flinging the spider through the air – if the current holder of the world record for the long jump, Norwegian Arne Tvervaag, could make a comparable leap, he’d cover about 300 feet from a standing start; instead his record, set in 1968, is 12 feet 2 inches.
Walking Up Walls
Thanks to a stick-to-almost-anything skin, Spider-Man can walk up walls. So can most spiders – if you’re a tarantula, do not try this at home since you’re too big and meant for burrowing. Each leg of a spider ends in a brushy covering of hair; and the end of each hair is in turn covered with microscopic organs that can take hold of small bumps in most surfaces, allowing the spider to go up walls and even across ceilings. This ability may be defeated – no pun intended; okay, it was intended – by very smooth surfaces, such as that of a bathroom sink.
Spider-Man is able to sense danger lurking near – the warning signal coming as a pain in his head that varies with the intensity of the threat. Spiders can detect danger coming their way with an early-warning system called eyes. You probably expected that. But that’s not all! Their most important source of information about the world and its hazards comes from highly sensitive hairs that cover the bodies of most spiders. These hairs perceive even low-level vibrations coming through whatever surface a spider is standing on. Many species also bear hairs that sense vibrations in the air, including sound.
Spider-Man can fire strands of webs from his wrists. Early in his career, he invented devices for doing this; but in later incarnations, he developed biological adaptations that allowed him to make webs naturally. He can capture villains with the sticky stuff and use it like ropes for swinging from building-to-building. Real spiders produce several types of webs – some that are not sticky but serve as a superstructure for webs; some that are sticky and capture prey; and some used for wrapping up prey in neat little packages. Some smaller spiders producer gossamer webs, used as a sort of sail that catches the wind and can carry a spider far and wide, which probably explains in part why spiders are found almost everywhere in the world. Spider silk comes from glands on the arachnid’s posterior, with different silks produced by different types of glands. Some silks are comparable in strength to high-grade alloy steel and can stretch up to four times their relaxed length without breaking. Made basically of protein and water, the silk is extremely light weight once it dries. A single strand long enough to encircle the globe would weigh about 1 pound 2 ounces.
For more information on spiders, click here.
Photo: Courtesy of Newsarama.com