9) Spider web vibrations: finding dinner

posted Jul 1, 2011, 3:23 AM by Ecmi Milano   [ updated Jul 7, 2011, 11:56 PM ]

Instructor: Derek Moulton

 Many spiders use webs to capture their prey. These spiders typically have very poor vision, and rely almost entirely on their sensation of vibrations in the web to detect stimuli. When a spider feels vibrations from something in its web, it has two main problems to solve: (1) what is causing the vibration? and (2) where on the web is the source of the vibration? If the spider detects prey, it is important for the spider to be able to locate the prey quickly and efficiently. How the spider accomplishes prey localization depends on the species of spider and the type of web they weave. In this project we will consider sheet web spiders, whose webs have strands of silk so dense they resemble a continuous sheet. The aim of the study is to develop a mathematical model of spider web vibrations and to try to understand how spiders are able to achieve prey localization.

Preferred mathematical background: ODE's, PDE's, basic numerical analysis.