Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

One glue, two functions: Spider webs stick to the ground and elevated surfaces differently

Date:
October 2, 2012
Source:
University of Akron
Summary:
Polymer scientists and biologists have discovered that a house spider -- in order to more efficiently capture different types of prey -- performs an uncommon feat. It tailors one glue to demonstrate two adhesive strengths: firm and weak.

The common house spider, Achaearanea tepidariorum, performs the uncommon feat of producing two different adhesive strengths with one glue.
Credit: The University of Akron

While the common house spider may be creepy to some, it has been inspiring researchers to find new and better ways to develop adhesives for human applications such as wound healing and industrial-strength tape. Think about an adhesive suture strong enough to heal a fractured shoulder and that same adhesive designed with a light tackiness ideal for "ouch-free" bandages.

Related Articles


University of Akron polymer scientists and biologists have discovered that this house spider — in order to more efficiently capture different types of prey — performs an uncommon feat. It tailors one glue to demonstrate two adhesive strengths: firm and weak. Released October 2 by Nature Communications, a study by the UA scientists shows that cobweb spiders use adhesive discs to anchor webs to ceilings, walls and various other surfaces. While they use the same glue on all surfaces, they create it using two different designs to give it a strong or weak grip, depending on whether its prey is flying or crawling on the ground.

The researchers who made the finding are already working toward developing a synthetic adhesive that mimics this intelligent design strategy employed by the house spider.

"We were intrigued by how cleverly spiders use silk to create a beautifully multifaceted adhesive and how they do so with very little glue," says researcher Ali Dhinojwala, UA Department of Polymer Science chair and Morton Professor of Polymer Science "It teaches us how to take something minimal and make the most of it — how to design an attachment to hold things together in unique ways."

The super sticky adhesive disc that anchors webs to ceilings and vertical surfaces keeps cobwebs mounted in place when struck by airborne insects flying at high velocities. On the contrary, the adhesive disc that attaches webs to the ground to capture walking insects does so with a weak grip. When a walking insect encounters the web, the weak adhesive disc snaps away from the ground and leaves prey suspended in the air by a silk thread.

Vasav Sahni, a recent Ph.D graduate from the UA department of polymer science and currently a senior research engineer at The 3M Co., uses the comic book super hero, Spiderman, as an example. "When Spiderman jumps from one building to another, he throws a thread that sticks to a building and then he jumps. The thread has to be very strong and also equally sticky — sticky enough to support him," Sahni says.

The strong adhesive attachment that holds the strand of threads that the fast-moving Spiderman uses to spring to a building doesn't lose its grip. Likewise, cobweb spiders use a "staple-pin" adhesive disc to keep their webs' dragline silk threads attached firmly to ceilings and walls. Conversely, the "dendritic" adhesive discs that mount gumfoot silk threads to the ground do so with a loose grip.

"When we made the discovery of the gumfoot adhesive disc that binds cobwebs lightly to the ground and compared it to the scaffolding adhesive discs, which attach cobwebs very firmly to walls and ceilings, we thought, 'How is this spider using the same glue to design both a weak and a strong attachment disc,'" Sahni says.

"What we have also discovered is a key design principle," Sahni says. "It's not a question of the inherent chemistry of the glue, but how the same glue can have different degrees of adhesion."

Todd Blackledge, professor and Leuchtag Endowed Chair in UA's department of biology at UA, explains that the differences in the two types of discs arise purely from the spider's spinning behaviors, because both are built from silk from the same sets of glands.

Sahni says the design principles could result in the development of synthetic adhesives, particularly for biomedical applications.


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. Vasav Sahni, Jared Harris, Todd A. Blackledge, Ali Dhinojwala. Cobweb-weaving spiders produce different attachment discs for locomotion and prey capture. Nature Communications, 2012; 3: 1106 DOI: 10.1038/ncomms2099

Cite This Page:

University of Akron. "One glue, two functions: Spider webs stick to the ground and elevated surfaces differently." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 October 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121002154219.htm>.
University of Akron. (2012, October 2). One glue, two functions: Spider webs stick to the ground and elevated surfaces differently. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 5, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121002154219.htm
University of Akron. "One glue, two functions: Spider webs stick to the ground and elevated surfaces differently." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121002154219.htm (accessed March 5, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Ringling Bros. Eliminating Elephant Acts

Ringling Bros. Eliminating Elephant Acts

AP (Mar. 5, 2015) The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is ending its iconic elephant acts. The circus&apos; parent company, Feld Entertainment, told the AP exclusively that the acts will be phased out by 2018 over growing public concern about the animals. (March 5) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Tourists Visit Rare Grey Whales in Mexico

Raw: Tourists Visit Rare Grey Whales in Mexico

AP (Mar. 4, 2015) Once nearly extinct, grey whales now migrate in their thousands to Mexico&apos;s Vizcaino reserve in Baja California, in search of warmer waters to mate and give birth. Tourists flock to the reserve to see the whales, measuring up to 49 feet long. (March 4) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Australian Museum Shares Terrifying Goblin Shark With the World

Australian Museum Shares Terrifying Goblin Shark With the World

Buzz60 (Mar. 4, 2015) The Australian Museum has taken in its fourth-ever goblin shark, a rare fish with an electricity-sensing snout and &apos;alien-like&apos; jaw. Mike Janela (@mikejanela) takes a look. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
New Hormone Could Protect Against Diabetes And Weight Gain

New Hormone Could Protect Against Diabetes And Weight Gain

Newsy (Mar. 4, 2015) A newly discovered hormone mimics the effects of exercise, protecting against diabetes and weight gain. 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