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Fancy footwork and non-stick leg coating helps spiders not stick to their own webs

Date:
March 1, 2012
Source:
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
Summary:
Researchers asked why spiders do not stick to their own sticky webs. Repeating old, widely quoted but poorly documented studies with modern equipment and techniques, they discovered that spiders' legs are protected by a covering of branching hairs and by a non-stick chemical coating and that they modify their behavior to avoid getting stuck.

Researchers studying why spiders do not stick to their own sticky webs have discovered that a spider's legs are protected by a covering of branching hairs and by a non-stick chemical coating.
Credit: © ChristopheB / Fotolia

Researchers at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and University of Costa Rica studying why spiders do not stick to their own sticky webs have discovered that a spider's legs are protected by a covering of branching hairs and by a non-stick chemical coating.

They also observed that spiders carefully move their legs in ways that minimize adhesive forces as they push against their sticky silk lines hundreds to thousands of times during the construction of each orb.

The web-weaving behavior of two tropical species, Nephila clavipes and Gasteracantha cancriformis, was recorded with a video camera equipped with close-up lenses. Another video camera coupled with a dissecting microscope helped to determine that individual droplets of sticky glue slide along the leg's bristly hair, and to estimate the forces of adhesion to the web. By washing spider legs with hexane and water, they showed that spiders' legs adhered more tenaciously when the non-stick coating was removed.

Their results are published online in the journal, Naturwissenschaften.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. R. D. Briceño, W. G. Eberhard. Spiders avoid sticking to their webs: clever leg movements, branched drip-tip setae, and anti-adhesive surfaces. Naturwissenschaften, 2012; DOI: 10.1007/s00114-012-0901-9

Cite This Page:

Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. "Fancy footwork and non-stick leg coating helps spiders not stick to their own webs." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 March 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120301103802.htm>.
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. (2012, March 1). Fancy footwork and non-stick leg coating helps spiders not stick to their own webs. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120301103802.htm
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. "Fancy footwork and non-stick leg coating helps spiders not stick to their own webs." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120301103802.htm (accessed September 30, 2014).

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