Arnold Berliner Award 2022 goes to Samuel Zschokke

This year’s recipient of the Arnold Berliner Award is Samuel Zschokke, who was honored for his article Spiders in space—orb-web-related behaviour in zero gravity published in Springer’s multidisciplinary journal, The Science of Nature. With their research, he and co-authors Stefanie Countryman and Paula E. Cushing demonstrate the importance of gravity for organisms. Having brought web-building spiders to the International Space Station, they observed two juvenile spiders over a 2-month period in zero gravity, and also observed two control spiders under otherwise identical conditions on Earth. Under natural conditions the studied spiders build asymmetric webs with the hub towards the upper edge of the web, and individuals orient themselves downwards when sitting on the hub whilst waiting for prey. In contrast to the natural condition, most, but not all, webs built in zero gravity were quite symmetric and closer analysis revealed that webs built when lights were on were more asymmetric (with the hub near the lights) than webs built when the lights were off. In addition, spiders showed a random orientation when the lights were off but faced away from the lights when they were on. The authors conclude that in the absence of gravity, the direction of light may serve as an orientation guide for spiders during web building and when waiting for prey on the hub.

Editorial in Science of Nature