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Video: Spiders Spin Electric Web

3 January 2014 1:30 pm
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Spiders are amazing architects of silk, and now they can add a new skill to their resumes: electrical engineering. The garden cross spider, Araneus diadematus, tailors a web containing carefully crafted patterns of water and silk that efficiently conducts electricity. The web threads are made of silk laced with special silk “droplets” swollen with water and a special chemical cocktail that functions as a highly adhesive and water-attractant glue—a sticky trap that also works as a water magnet, sucking humidity from all around. This concoction electrically charges the web and helps spiders catch their prey, according to a study in Naturwissenschaften. The study is the first to report the electric twist on a spider’s arsenal to capture prey, along with detailed explanations on how this mechanism works. The researchers show that the webs cause tiny distortions in Earth’s electric field within a few millimeters of their location. This allows the web to literally spring toward prey as well as small charged particles like pollen and pollutants. According to the authors, such webs could also be used to monitor environmental pollution, as they are as efficient as industrial sensors at detecting and capturing airborne pollutants, such as pesticides.