Depending on your persuasion, images of spiders will affect or frighten the prey in a relatively comparative way in terms of size (hunters vs. potential anyone remember?). Spider silk is famously strong, but most of us also have to fight to pull a bison out of a nylon rope up to a steep slope, so how will the little spider do it?
New research published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface has solved this puzzle by studying the lifting power of two different species of Theridiidae spiders: Steatoda paykulliana and Steatodatriangulosa. Seeing the web slingers in action, they realized that these tiny engineers were able to lift the prey to an inevitable height by creating a pulley system made of many threads called the tangled web.
Co-authors Gabriel Greco and Nicola M. Pugno placed a spider and a cockroach (Blaptica dubia) in a plastic box-the-Thunderdome and recorded the next play. The box covered with black paper to make it easier for the camera to pick up what was happening with the spider’s light silk string. Researchers say this is the first time the spider-lifting process has studied, and the novel’s method has revealed some interesting silk-cutting techniques.
The first step was to gather the prey in a shell style by wrapping the shells around them so that they would not feel stingy as soon as the heavy lifting process was over. The spiders then released a slightly different kind of silk that comes from the main amputee gland and can use as an elastic band or as an extension. From the recordings it known that the spiders began to create a web extending to a high place near the right of the spider, they only used this special silk, which was pre-stretched to attach to the prey.
Then the hive, which saw spiders move more and more stretched threads as they saw the web running up and down the web. As they were numbered, the elastic potential of the stretched threads was able to gain the same lift when the elastic band released back to its smaller size. The mechanism is similar to that seen in old school elevator shifts, and it was easier for the spider to lift its prey with each additional thread. The battle once considered when the cockroach became the highest point on the web near the spider’s web.
“3DED family spiders show a strange behavior when they prey on extremely large prey,” the study authors wrote. Understanding the mechanics of silk use is an important way of research for the invention of novel technologies and materials, but in general as a way to better understand the evolution of silk spinners. The researchers said their findings “provide further evidence for the strong role of silk in the evolution of spiders, especially how spiders can use it as an external tool to overcome their muscle limitations and catch prey with large masses, such as 50 times the spider’s mass.”
The skillful workmanship of the silk displayed by these tiny spiders does not work hard, but demonstrates the transformative power of working skills. If only the heroes of The Gigantic Turnip had known that.