Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Spider Silk

Spider Silk is a fiber spun by spiders. It is a remarkably strong material. Although it is lighter than cotton, yet ounce for ounce it is stronger than steel. Dragline silk which is the strongest of the seven silks these spiders can spin is tougher and more waterproof than silkworm strands, which are commonly used in clothing. Spiders produce silk at room temperature using water as solvent. If enlarged to the size of a football field, a web of dragline silk could stop a jumbo jet in flight!

Spiders normally use their silk to make structures, either for protection for their offspring, or for predation on other creatures. They can also suspend themselves using their silk, normally for the same reasons.

The trapdoor spider will burrow into the ground and weave a trapdoor-like structure with spindles around so it can tell when prey arrives and take it by surprise.

Many small spiders use silk threads for ballooning. They extrude several threads into the air and let themselves become carried away with upward winds. Although most rides will end a few meters later, it seems to be a common way for spiders to invade islands. Many sailors have reported that spiders have been caught in their ship’s sails, even when far from land.

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