Cribellate Spiders

The mechanical properties of spider silk have attracted the interest of researchers for a long time now. However, due to the focus on the material “silk”, it has long been overlooked that spiders also process single silk fibres into complex threads. Cribellate spiders have brought this processing to an extreme: they produces capture threads by combining three different silks and up to 40,000 single fibres to one single thread. The main component of these threads are nanofibres with a diameter of about 20 nm. To produce such capture threads, the cribellate spider thus has to process, handle and intertwine nanofibres. Such an ability is not only unique in nature, but also has no counterpart in technical production of nanofibres.

We aim to understand how cribellate spiders are able to process, handle and intertwine nanofibres, to biomimetically transfer the principles. Furthermore, we are interested in the biological function of these threads and try to resolve why cribellate spiders produce such sophisticated structured capture threads.