Paris, March 28, 2006
Fasten an object to the end of a vertically suspended thread. Give it a slight twist and let go. You will observe that the object rotates for a certain length of time and with a certain amplitude, depending on the material of the thread. Now observe a spider suspended from its thread: It is stable, doesn't move, spins its thread in a perfectly straight line and always recovers its balance after environmental disturbances.
By experimenting with a torsion pendulum to which they attached a mass equivalent to a spider's weight, researchers at the Laboratoire de physique des lasers (CNRS/University of
The amazing properties of spider's thread have been known for several years: its ductility, strength and hardness surpass those of the most complex synthetics fibers . It now also seems that through natural selection, spider's thread has evolved into a material with “self-shape memory effect” which allows it to return to its original configuration without outside stimulus. This complex dynamic process has recently been represented as a “stacked” model which the authors use to depict the relaxation of the different proteins in spider's thread.
© Anthony Carré - CNRS 2006 Spiders can avoid uncontrolled movements in their thread, which could potentially attract predators.
© Anthony Carré - CNRS 2006
Spiders can avoid uncontrolled movements in their thread, which could potentially attract predators.
Olivier Emile, Albert Le Floch & Fritz Vollrath. The self-shape memory effect in spider draglines. Nature, 30th March 2006.
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