Plastic material investment in load-bearing silk attachments in spiders

Jonas O. Wolff*, Braxton Jones, Marie E. Herberstein

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    6 Citations (Scopus)


    The nature and size of attachments is a fundamental element of animal constructions. Presumably, these adhesive structures are plastically deployed to balance material investment and attachment strength. Here we studied plasticity in dragline anchorages of the golden orb web spider, Nephila plumipes. Specifically, we predict that spiders adjust the size and structure of dragline anchorages with load, i.e. spider mass. Mass was manipulated by attaching lead pieces to the spider's abdomen resulting in a 50 percent increase in mass. Loaded spiders spun larger but structurally similar thread anchorages than unloaded spiders. Thus, the spinning program that determines the overall anchor structure is highly stereotypic, and flexibility is introduced through varying the anchor size by increasing material investment. Our study showcases substrate attachments as suitable models to investigate the interplay between innate and changeable elements in the economy of building behaviours.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)45-47
    Number of pages3
    Early online date17 May 2018
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2018


    • spider silk
    • attachment
    • silk adhesion
    • piriform silk
    • animal architecture
    • spider web


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