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Zoological Lett. 2016 Nov 28;2:23. eCollection 2016.

Whip spiders (Amblypygi) become water-repellent by a colloidal secretion that self-assembles into hierarchical microstructures.

Author information

1
Functional Morphology and Biomechanics, Zoological Institute, University of Kiel, Am Botanischen Garten 9, Kiel, 24098 Germany ; Department of Biological Sciences, Macquarie University, Sydney, NSW 2109 Australia.
2
Department of Integrative Zoology, University of Vienna, UZA1 Althanstraße 14, Vienna, 1090 Austria.
3
Department of Integrative Zoology, University of Vienna, UZA1 Althanstraße 14, Vienna, 1090 Austria ; Institute of Zoology, Department of Integrative Biology and Biodiversity Research, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Gregor Mendel Straße 33, Vienna, 1180 Austria.
4
Functional Morphology and Biomechanics, Zoological Institute, University of Kiel, Am Botanischen Garten 9, Kiel, 24098 Germany.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Among both plants and arthropods, super-hydrophobic surfaces have evolved that enable self-cleaning, locomotion on water surfaces, or plastron respiration. Super-hydrophobicity is achieved by a combination of non-polar substances and complex micro- and nano-structures, usually acquired by growing processes or the deposition of powder-like materials.

RESULTS:

Here we report on a multi-phasic secretion in whip spiders (Arachnida, Amblypygi), which externally forms durable, hierarchical microstructures on the basically smooth cuticle. The solidified secretion crust makes the previously highly wettable cuticle super-hydrophobic. We describe the ultrastructure of secretory cells, and the maturation and secretion of the different products involved.

CONCLUSION:

Whip spiders represent intriguing objects of study for revealing the mechanisms of the formation of complex microstructures in non-living systems. Understanding the physical and chemical processes involved may, further, be of interest for bio-inspired design of functional surface coatings.

KEYWORDS:

Amblypygi; Anti-wetting; Arachnida; Cerotegument; Colloid; Cuticle; Plastron; Surface coating

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