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ScienceShot: Worm Goo's Sticky Secret

19 November 2010 1:47 pm
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James Woodman

Spider-Man has nothing on the velvet worm. The french-fry-sized carnivore shoots slime from specialized glands in its head that immobilizes cockroaches and crickets within seconds. Now researchers have figured out the secret of the ooze. Unlike spider silk, the worm's goo starts out as a mess of disordered proteins. But once it contacts the target, the proteins organize themselves into a solid, sticky gel, immobilizing victims. That’s an entirely new way of capturing prey, the scientists report this month in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. And perhaps fodder for an upcoming superhero movie.

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