20 MILLION Year-Old Spider and the Science of Spider Silk

This naturally produced spider silk is stronger, stretchier and stickier just as anything that has been created by humans. It is very invisible; hence one might walk into without knowing that it is present. It is also said that some spider silk fibers are equivalent to steel and Kevlar in terms of strength. So much so that this silk cord in made in the diameter of a garden hose could hold up a passenger airplane. That indeed is a lot of strength.


Types of spider silks

There are 46,000 types of spider silks found in the natures manufactured by spiders. Most of the spiders are found to make up to 8 kinds of silks. The most commonly found silks are:

  1. Dragline (major ampullate) silk: this silk helps make the out line of the web and acts like a safety rope for the spider.
  2. The minor ampullate silk : this helps guide the web’s construction.
  3. Flagellform Silk: this helps trap the prey and it is a mix of two other types of silks.
  4. Pyriform Silk: the cement like consistency of this silk helps attach the web to wherever its hanging from.
  5. Aciniform Silk: this silk wraps the prey in.
  6. Tubilliform Silk: this is used to wrap their own eggs in to protect them.

Composition of the spider silk

It is made up of – proteins. The specific kind of protein that they are made up of are called – Spidroins. Spidroins are spider fibroins. All the silk glans found in the body of a spider have liquid protein in them which have the consistency of that of honey. These protein chains are all made up of 20 amino acids that are coded in genes. The permutations and the combinations in which these genes are found determine what the protein will look like and what will be its function. To simplify it – take an example of a train, the whole train represents the silk molecules and the train boxes each have a string of amino acids. Imagine several such trains and each having a different combination of the amino acids. These make up for the complex yet fascination system of how the silks are found in the spider.

Uses of these silks

Many different species of spiders use their spider silks differently. For example – the trapdoor spider uses its silk to make a camouflaged shelter. The ogre spider uses its silk to throw it out like a fisherman. And the redback spider uses it to trap in the sticky spring-loaded snares. Spiders also use it throw venomous silks, to ride the winds in order to travel for kilometers.

Origin of  spider silks

A 100 million year old fossil deposit from Burma has been found to have a spider in it. Therefore, spiders have been making silk for a very long time just the way spiders do today.

Scientist are making use of this composition and its material to be manufactured by us, there has been no match to its strength found in its natural way in comparison to anything that humans have created.

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