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Sci Rep. 2011;1:41. doi: 10.1038/srep00041. Epub 2011 Jul 21.

Changes in the adhesive properties of spider aggregate glue during the evolution of cobwebs.

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Department of Polymer Science, Integrated Bioscience Program, University of Akron, Akron, OH 44325-3909, USA.


We compare the prey capture glues produced by orb-weaving spiders (viscid glue) and their evolutionary descendents, the cobweb-weaving spiders (gumfoot glue). These glues are produced in homologous glands but exhibit contrasting structure, properties and response to changing humidity. Individual glue droplet stretching measurements indicate that the gumfoot glue behaves like a viscoelastic liquid in contrast to the viscid glue, which behaves like a viscoelastic solid. Moreover, the gumfoot glue is largely humidity-resistant - elasticity and adhesion are constant across variation in humidity and there is weak volume-dependence. Viscid glue, however, is highly humidity-sensitive. The glue expands an order of magnitude and demonstrates a monotonous reduction in elasticity under increased humidity, while glue adhesion optimizes at intermediate levels of humidity. We suggest that observed differences are due to different 'tackifiers' used in these systems. These results shall inspire future efforts in fabricating stimuli-resistant and stimuli-sensitive materials.

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