How a spider spins electrified nanosilk

Some spiders trap their prey with glue, while others, like the cribellate orb spider (Uloborus plumipes), use static electricity. In the Jan. 27 Biology Letters, researchers report that this spider’s unique spinning technique actually electrifies its nanoscale silk.

Scientists collected cribellate orb spiders from garden centers in England, analyzed images and video of the spinning process and examined silk samples using different types of microscopy. Tiny glands line the web-making aparatus on the spider’s belly and produce a gooey, raw silk substance called dope. Funnels transport the dope to spigots. The silk then solidifies as it shoots out of the spigot. As the spiders comb and pull it into nanofibers, electrostatic friction charges their threads.

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