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Journal of Experimental Biology partnership with Dryad

The mechanical properties of the non-sticky spiral in Nephila orb webs (Araneae, Nephilidae)
Thomas Hesselberg, Fritz Vollrath


Detailed information on web geometry and the material properties of the various silks used enables the function of the web’s different structures to be elucidated. In this study we investigated the non-sticky spiral in Nephila edulis webs, which in this species is not removed during web building. This permanent non-sticky spiral shows several modifications compared with others, e.g. temporary non-sticky spirals – it is zigzag shaped and wrapped around the radial thread at the elongated junctions. The material properties of the silk used in the non-sticky spiral and other scaffolding structures (i.e. radii, frame and anchor threads) were comparable. However, the fibre diameters differed, with the non-sticky spiral threads being significantly smaller. We used the measured data in a finite element (FE) model of the non-sticky spiral in a segment of the web. The FE analysis suggested that the observed zigzag index resulted from the application of very high pre-stresses to the outer turns of the non-sticky spiral. However, final pre-stress levels in the non-sticky spiral after reorganisation were down to 300MPa or 1.5–2 times the stress in the radii, which is probably closer to the stress applied by the spider during web building.



    This study was funded by an Intra-European Marie Curie Fellowship for Career Development [project number 234818] to T.H.

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