One of the most feared creatures on the earth just became ten thousand times cooler.
A team of researchers from Oxford have recently discovered the amazing weaving technique of a spider called Uloborus plumipes. As if the micrometer-thick strands that most spiders create were not impressive enough, the new species spins its webs at a nano-scale. On top of its excellent weaving method, the so-called “garden center spider” can also create sticky webs without using organic glue, like the regular spiders. Instead, the lace weaver uses electrostatics very efficiently for catching prey.
To put things into perspective, a nanometer is a millionth of a millimeter. Knowing this fact makes us even more impressed with the long and strong fibers which make up the spider’s web, despite their small size. One way scientists could use the newly discovered spider is by studying its weaving technique and improving the way we manufacture enhanced polymer fibers.
The lab studies were conducted by Katrin Kronenberger and Fritz Vollrath, the two scientists who discovered the “amazing spider”, inside the Oxford University’s zoology department. They began by photographing and filming the female spiders with professional equipment, showing them while spinning their silky threads.
Some very astonishing differences came up once the researchers studied the spider’s anatomy, starting from the way the silk is produced. The glands responsible for the creating the webs generated liquid silk – a phenomenon you don’t see too often among spiders. Therefore, this particular spider shapes its liquid threads quite easily, which causes them to stretch and freeze very soon. An interesting observation showed that stretched fibers became very strong.
The researchers soon found out the reason for the amazing webs: the gland which is responsible for producing silk, the cribellum, is made up of thousands of 500-nanometer-long tubes; also, the spider’s cribellum is one of the tiniest among all the spiders.
If you are wondering about the electrostatic feature of this amazing spider, the experts who discovered it also explained how that works. Basically, the insect filters the solid threads over his hind legs’ hairs in an intense move, charging them quite strongly. Due to this quick move, the strands become sticky and attract prey, just like a plastic ruler behaves when you rub it quickly and then is able to attract bits of paper or a plastic bag.
These two memorable features of the Uloborus plumipes make it invincible. Nano-sized threads weaving into electrically charged webs are a deadly combo.
Image Source: Jenskjeld Info