The fate of any hapless insect blundering into a spider's web is almost certainly sealed. Ensnared by sticky spirals, most victims can only wait until despatched by the web's occupant. However, some prisoners successfully break free. Brent Opell from Virginia Tech is fascinated by spider webs. He explains that elastic glycoproteins, in the adhesive droplets distributed along the sticky spiral, attach to the web's prisoner and the outermost droplets stretch until eventually letting go rather than damaging the web. But which aspect of the droplet fails? Opell explains that either the drop could break in two, or the glycoprotein adhesive could release from the surface of the captive. Intrigued, Opell and his colleagues Harold Schwend and Stephen Vito measured the stickiness of threads from orb-webs spun by the orchard spider, labyrinth spider and spinney micrathena using materials that have different surface energies (p. 2237). These materials ranged from Teflon, renowned for its non-stick characteristics and low surface energy, to plastic food wrap, whose high surface energy causes it to stick readily to surfaces. Finding that the stickiness of spider threads was directly related to the surface energy of the materials to which they adhered, Opell and his colleagues conclude that instead of breaking in two as force on the droplets increases, the glycoprotein glue within the elongating droplets releases from the surface, saving the web from destruction.
WEB GLUE RELEASES RATHER THAN BREAKING
Kathryn Knight; WEB GLUE RELEASES RATHER THAN BREAKING. J Exp Biol 1 July 2011; 214 (13): iii. doi: https://doi.org/10.1242/jeb.060723
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The Forest of Biologists
We are excited to announce the launch of The Forest of Biologists, a new biodiversity initiative created with support from the Woodland Trust, aiming to counteract nature loss and safeguard some of the most critically endangered ecosystems for future generations. For every Research Article and Review/Commentary article that is published in JEB (and our sister journals Development, Journal of Cell Science, Disease Models & Mechanisms and Biology Open), a native tree is planted in a forest in the UK.
Celebrating 100 years of discovery
We are proud to be celebrating 100 years of discovery in Journal of Experimental Biology. Visit our centenary webpage to find out more about how we are marking this historic milestone.
Looking back on the first issue of JEB
Journal of Experimental Biology launched in 1923 as The British Journal of Experimental Biology. As we celebrate our centenary, we look back at that first issue and the zoologists publishing their work in the new journal.
In our new Conversation series JEB@100, JEB Editor-in-Chief Craig Franklin talks about the big outstanding questions in the field of physiological plasticity and why he thinks a sense of community is key to the journal's success. Find out more here.
Surface friction alters the agility of a small Australian marsupial
Matthew Eizenga and colleagues have discovered that Mexican fruit flies vanish in a blur in the eyes of predatory spiders when they wave their wings at the arachnids, buying the flies time to make their escape.
Propose new workshop for 2025
Do you have an idea for a Workshop? We are now accepting proposals for our 2025 Biologists Workshops programme. As the scientific organiser, your involvement will be focused on the science. We'll take care of all the logistics. In 2025 we'll continue our efforts to diversify our Workshop programme and will be reserving one of our Workshops for an application from a Global South (GS) country to host an event overseas.