Crawling at High Speeds: Steady Level Locomotion in the Spider Cupiennius salei-Global Kinematics and Implications for Centre of Mass Dynamics

PLoS One. 2013 Jun 21;8(6):e65788. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0065788. Print 2013.


Spiders are an old yet very successful predatory group of arthropods. Their locomotor system differs from those of most other arthropods by the lack of extensor muscles in two major leg joints. Though specific functional characteristics can be expected regarding the locomotion dynamics of spiders, this aspect of movement physiology has been only scarcely examined so far. This study presents extensive analyses of a large dataset concerning global kinematics and the implications for dynamics of adult female specimens of the large Central American spider Cupiennius salei (Keyserling). The experiments covered the entire speed-range of straight runs at constant speeds. The analyses revealed specific characteristics of velocity dependent changes in the movements of the individual legs, as well as in the translational and rotational degrees of freedom of both the centre of mass and the body. In contrast to many other fast moving arthropods, C. salei avoid vertical fluctuations of their centre of mass during fast locomotion. Accordingly, aerial phases were not observed here. This behaviour is most likely a consequence of optimising energy expenditure with regard to the specific requirements of spiders' leg anatomy. A strong synchronisation of two alternating sets of legs appears to play only a minor role in the locomotion of large spiders. Reduced frequency and low centre of mass amplitudes as well as low angular changes of the body axes, in turn, seems to be the result of relatively low leg coordination.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Locomotion / physiology*
  • Models, Biological*
  • Spiders / anatomy & histology
  • Spiders / physiology*

Grant support

This work was partly supported by the German Science Foundation (, grant no. Bl 236/14-1. The funder had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. No additional external funding was received for this study