Spiders spinning electrically charged nano-fibres.
Kronenberger K., Vollrath F.
Most spider threads are on the micrometre and sub-micrometre scale. Yet, there are some spiders that spin true nano-scale fibres such as the cribellate orb spider, Uloborus plumipes. Here, we analyse the highly specialized capture silk-spinning system of this spider and compare it with the silk extrusion systems of the more standard spider dragline threads. The cribellar silk extrusion system consists of tiny, morphologically basic glands each terminating through exceptionally long and narrow ducts in uniquely shaped silk outlets. Depending on spider size, hundreds to thousands of these outlet spigots cover the cribellum, a phylogenetically ancient spinning plate. We present details on the unique functional design of the cribellate gland-duct-spigot system and discuss design requirements for its specialist fibrils. The spinning of fibres on the nano-scale seems to have been facilitated by the evolution of a highly specialist way of direct spinning, which differs from the aqua-melt silk extrusion set-up more typical for other spiders.