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.
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- surface coating