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

Jonas O. Wolff, Thomas Schwaha, Michael Seiter, Stanislav N. Gorb

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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.
Original languageEnglish
Article number23
Pages (from-to)23-1-23-10
Number of pages10
JournalZoological letters
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2016. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • anti-wetting
  • surface coating
  • cuticle
  • colloid
  • Arachnida
  • Amblypygi
  • plastron
  • cerotegument


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