As an aid to research jumping spiders (Phidippus audax, of the family Salticidae), Cornell researchers Gil Menda, Paul S. Shamble, Eyal I. Nitzany, James R. Golden, and Ronald R. Hoy came up with a unique 3D printed harness to prevent their tiny spider experimental subjects from exploding and dying while they analyzed them. You can read their findings on the Cornell site. Here is an article from 3DPrint.com detailing the 3D printed elements of the project:
…The Cornell researchers wanted to understand the structure and functioning of this particular spider’s visual system (specifically, the brain’s neurons) but studying the brain of the jumping spider proved more challenging than they’d anticipated. Each time they attempted to examine the spiders’ brains, the study subjects would literally explode. This is because the bodies of these spiders are filled with a liquid that is highly pressurized, enabling their bodies to move, something like tiny hydraulic systems. When the jumping spiders’ bodies were pierced, the creatures would burst, the spiders would die, end of experiment.
To hold the jumping spiders in place while they studied them, the lab team devised a tiny, 3D printed plastic harness shaped somewhat like an upper-case letter “I.” In essence, the harness is clamped down over the body of the spider and warm wax is placed over both to keep the study subject in place. As the experiment involves inserting a tiny, hair’s-width electrode into the brain of the arachnid, any movement would skew the results. Menda devised a method for creating a self-sealing hole in the spider’s head so the electrode could be inserted.
Once the spider is restrained in its waxy harness, the researchers show it images of flies as well as other jumping spiders (“A Clockwork Orange” comes to mind). When the spiders saw pictures of flies, there was a notable jump in their brains’ electrical activity. Evidently, the eight eyes of spiders have differing functions. While the primary pair, the larger of the jumping spider’s eyes sees objects and details, the secondary four eyes process motion….
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