Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Spiders know the meaning of web music

Date:
June 3, 2014
Source:
University of Oxford
Summary:
Spider silk transmits vibrations across a wide range of frequencies so that, when plucked like a guitar string, its sound carries information about prey, mates, and even the structural integrity of a web. The discovery was made when researchers fired bullets and lasers at spider silk to study how it vibrates.

Silk during high-rate ballistic impact.
Credit: OSG, 2014

Spider silk transmits vibrations across a wide range of frequencies so that, when plucked like a guitar string, its sound carries information about prey, mates, and even the structural integrity of a web.

The discovery was made by researchers from the Universities of Oxford, Strathclyde, and Sheffield who fired bullets and lasers at spider silk to study how it vibrates. They found that, uniquely, when compared to other materials, spider silk can be tuned to a wide range of harmonics. The findings, to be reported in the journal Advanced Materials, not only reveal more about spiders but could also inspire a wide range of new technologies, such as tiny light-weight sensors.

"Most spiders have poor eyesight and rely almost exclusively on the vibration of the silk in their web for sensory information," said Beth Mortimer of the Oxford Silk Group at Oxford University, who led the research. "The sound of silk can tell them what type of meal is entangled in their net and about the intentions and quality of a prospective mate. By plucking the silk like a guitar string and listening to the 'echoes' the spider can also assess the condition of its web."

This quality is used by the spider in its web by 'tuning' the silk: controlling and adjusting both the inherent properties of the silk, and the tensions and interconnectivities of the silk threads that make up the web. To study the sonic properties of the spider's gossamer threads the researchers used ultra-high-speed cameras to film the threads as they responded to the impact of bullets. In addition, lasers were used to make detailed measurements of even the smallest vibration.

"The fact that spiders can receive these nanometre vibrations with organs on each of their legs, called slit sensillae, really exemplifies the impact of our research about silk properties found in our study," said Dr Shira Gordon of the University of Strathclyde, an author involved in this research.

"These findings further demonstrate the outstanding properties of many spider silks that are able to combine exceptional toughness with the ability to transfer delicate information,' said Professor Fritz Vollrath of the Oxford Silk Group at Oxford University, an author of the paper. 'These are traits that would be very useful in light-weight engineering and might lead to novel, built-in 'intelligent' sensors and actuators."

Dr Chris Holland of the University of Sheffield, an author of the paper, said: "Spider silks are well known for their impressive mechanical properties, but the vibrational properties have been relatively overlooked and now we find that they are also an awesome communication tool. Yet again spiders continue to impress us in more ways than we can imagine."

Beth Mortimer said: "It may even be that spiders set out to make a web that 'sounds right' as its sonic properties are intimately related to factors such as strength and flexibility."

Editor's Note: A video about the research is available on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kjh7bQSc8ag


Story Source:

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


Cite This Page:

University of Oxford. "Spiders know the meaning of web music." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 June 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140603092533.htm>.
University of Oxford. (2014, June 3). Spiders know the meaning of web music. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 27, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140603092533.htm
University of Oxford. "Spiders know the meaning of web music." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140603092533.htm (accessed August 27, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Firefighters Rescue Puppy Stuck in Tire

Raw: Firefighters Rescue Puppy Stuck in Tire

AP (Aug. 26, 2014) It took Houston firefighters more than an hour to free a puppy who got its head stuck in a tire. (Aug. 26) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Have You Ever Been 'Sleep Drunk?' 1 in 7 Has

Have You Ever Been 'Sleep Drunk?' 1 in 7 Has

Newsy (Aug. 26, 2014) A study published in the journal "Neurology" interviewed more than 19,000 people and found 15 percent suffer from being "sleep drunk." Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Great White Shark Spotted Off Massachusetts Coast

Great White Shark Spotted Off Massachusetts Coast

Reuters - US Online Video (Aug. 26, 2014) A great white shark is spotted off the shore at Duxbury beach in Massachusetts forcing beach goers out of the water. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Elk Wanders Into German Office Building

Raw: Elk Wanders Into German Office Building

AP (Aug. 25, 2014) A young bull elk wandered inside the office building of a company in Dresden, Germany on Monday. The elk became trapped between a wall and glass windows while rescue workers tried to rescue him safely. (Aug. 25) Video provided by AP
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:
from the past week

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