Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Tarantulas Produce Silk From Their Feet

Date:
September 28, 2006
Source:
University of California - Irvine
Summary:
Researchers have found for the first time that tarantulas can produce silk from their feet as well as their spinnerets, a discovery with profound implications for why spiders began to spin silk in the first place.

Tarantula (side view).
Credit: Photo by Senta Niederegger

Researchers have found for the first time that tarantulas can produce silk from their feet as well as their spinnerets, a discovery with profound implications for why spiders began to spin silk in the first place.

Related Articles


Adam Summers, a UC Irvine assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, was among the team of scientists who made the discovery using zebra tarantulas from Costa Rica. The team found that the tarantulas secrete silk from spigots on their legs, allowing them to better cling to surfaces. Until now, spiders were only known to spin silk from spinnerets located on their abdomen and to use the silk to form webs for protection and capturing prey rather than for locomotion.

The findings are published in the current issue of Nature.

“If we find that other spiders in addition to these tarantulas have the ability to secrete silk from their feet, this could represent a major change in our evolutionary hypothesis regarding spider silk,” Summers said. “It could mean that silk production actually originated in the feet to increase traction, with the diversity of spinneret silk evolving later.”

The researchers placed tarantulas on a vertical glass surface. Though ground dwelling, these spiders can normally hang on to vertical surfaces by using thousands of spatulate hairs and small claws. However, the scientists noticed that when the spider started to slip down the surface, it produced silk from all four pairs of legs, allowing it to adhere to the glass for more than 20 minutes. The silk secretions were clearly visible on the glass. Using scanning electron microscopy, the scientists also were able to see the openings on the legs that resemble the silk-producing spigots on spider abdominal spinnerets.

The next step, according to Summers, is to investigate whether the silk produced by the feet is the same as that produced by the spinneret. Many spiders can produce seven different kinds of silk. Scientists will look at the genes involved in silk production from the feet, compare them to the gene family that leads to spinneret silk production, and be able to better determine whether silk was originally used for traction, or whether that was a secondary usage that came later.

Collaborating on the study were Stanislav Gorb of the Max Planck Institute for Metals Research in Germany; Senta Niederegger of the Friedrich Schiller University of Jena in Germany; Cheryl Hayashi of UC Riverside; Walter Votsch of the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology in Germany; and Paul Walther of the University of Ulm in Germany.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of California - Irvine. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of California - Irvine. "Tarantulas Produce Silk From Their Feet." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 September 2006. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/09/060927201410.htm>.
University of California - Irvine. (2006, September 28). Tarantulas Produce Silk From Their Feet. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/09/060927201410.htm
University of California - Irvine. "Tarantulas Produce Silk From Their Feet." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/09/060927201410.htm (accessed October 24, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Friday, October 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Black Bear Cub Goes Sunday Shopping

Black Bear Cub Goes Sunday Shopping

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Oct. 23, 2014) Price check on honey? Bear cub startles Oregon drugstore shoppers. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Dances With Wolves in China's Wild West

Dances With Wolves in China's Wild West

AFP (Oct. 23, 2014) One man is on a mission to boost the population of wolves in China's violence-wracked far west. The animal - symbol of the Uighur minority there - is under threat with a massive human resettlement program in the region. Duration: 00:41 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Breakfast Debate: To Eat Or Not To Eat?

Breakfast Debate: To Eat Or Not To Eat?

Newsy (Oct. 23, 2014) Conflicting studies published in the same week re-ignited the debate over whether we should be eating breakfast. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Weird-Looking Dinosaur Solves 50-Year-Old Mystery

Weird-Looking Dinosaur Solves 50-Year-Old Mystery

Newsy (Oct. 23, 2014) You've probably seen some weird-looking dinosaurs, but have you ever seen one this weird? It's worth a look. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins