An international partnership resulted in information about a new variation of silk secreted by the peculiar Australian basket-web spider. It uses it to craft a lobster pot web that shields its eggs and traps prey.
The spider weaves incredibly rigid silk and so tough that the basket-web doesn’t require support from nearby vegetation to keep its integrity.
Professor Mark Elgar from the School of BioSciences at the University of Melbourne said that, as far as they are concerned, no other spider species build webs like that.
“This silk retains its rigidity, allowing a rather exquisite silken basket or deadly ant trap,” he added.
The partnership between the University of Melbourne and the University of Bayreuth with the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation is likely to keep individuals interested.
Entomologist William J Rainbow reported and analyzed the species in 1900 but didn’t mention the silk’s nature, probably because he had only seen drawings of the web and had to imagine the rest of the structure.
The recent study, posted in Scientific Reports, as “Dimensional stability of a remarkable spider foraging web achieved by the synergistic arrangement of silk fiber,” revealed that the silk needed to craft the basket web is a lot like the silk that a lot of spiders use to cover their eggs, to ward them off against enemies and elements.
Professor Elgar believes that the discovery will pave the way for understanding the evolution of foraging webs.
“It is widely thought that silk foraging webs, including the magnificent orb-webs, evolved from the habit of producing silk to protect egg cases. Perhaps the basket-web is an extension of the protective egg case and represents a rare contemporary example of an evolutionary ancestral process,” he added.