A new study has found that the spiders typically generate micrometers thick-sticky silks, while a unique feather-legged lace weaver (Uloborus plumipes) produces lengthy, fluffy and charged silk that is similar to wool, which is only a few nanometers in thickness for catching its prey.
The researcher from Oxford University conducted the study and found how this process is carried by the spiders. According to the researchers, the study’s findings could pave a path for technologies eyeing the commercial spinning of nano-scale filaments and make it a possibility.
Researchers Fritz Vollrath and Katrin Kronenberger, both from the Department of Zoology at the University of Oxfords, collected pictures and videos of adult female Uloborus spiders that were spinning their silk. For the study, the researchers took help of microscopy techniques for examining the organs used by the spiders for making their filaments.
Unlike other spiders, the Uloborus were found using an age-old spinning organ, called the cribellum, made up of two plates thickly enveloped with silk-outflow spigots.
Spigots were the exit point for tubes, measuring 500-nanometer long, which carry the silk raw material.
Similarly, the researchers discovered that the silk produced by the spiders is liquid and as the silk is pulled by the Uloborus, it transforms into a solid thread.
“The raw material, silk dope, is funneled through exceptionally narrow and long ducts into tiny spinning nozzles or spigots. Importantly, the silk seems to form only just before it emerges at the uniquely-shaped spigots of this spider,” Kronenberger said.
A unique combing action created by the spider accompanied with a violent thread pulling results in an electrostatic charge, which when coupled with the filaments’ thinness emerging from the spigots, offer adhesion and result in the creation of a very sticky silk that captures prey.
Writing in the researcher paper, the team notes, “Uloborus is able to spin nano-scale filaments of great length and it may be assumed that the animal also somehow manages to electrostatically charge them. The spinning system observed has key features not found in other spiders studied so far and clearly presents a challenge that needs to be tackled in detailed follow-up studies.”
According to the researchers, the study of spider offered them with crucial insights on the process of creation of nano-scale filaments.
The study was published online on January 28 in Biology Letters.