Talk:Spider silk

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Inaccurate text[edit]

At the bottom of the page there is a link to Hagfish. Why? I don't see any reason to link to Hagfish from this page. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 76.171.214.96 (talk) 02:58, 19 July 2008 (UTC)

Inaccurate text[edit]

Removed the following block of text since I think it's inaccurate:

By comparison of size and density, spider silk is 5 times much stronger than steel and possesses an elastic property, thus giving it a very high energy-to-break ratio. In fact, the biopolymer structure of the silk is so strong, it is true to imagine the likes of a strand the size of a pencil being able to easily stop and hold a fast Boieng747 commercial jet in flight! To date, spider silk is the strongest known material to man and synthetic materials cannot hope to even come close. The protein- and biopolymer-based material differs across the over 35,000 species of spiders, and is easily recyclable.

Mark Foskey

"The proteins in the silk are complex molecules of amino acid. " Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't all proteins complex molecules of amino acid? Bong 11:47, 8 Nov 2004 (UTC)

I have a few questions about the subject:

  • How thick is spider silk and what is the volume of a spider web of, for example, about 20 cm in diameter? What I'm getting at is: what if a spider is starving, how much of its body mass can go into making a web?
  • If the builing of a web is destroyed, is that a huge loss of body mass for most spiders or are their metabolism set up to build a few in a row without ingesting food. (I'm sure it depends on species, but does someone have an idea?)
I think that spiders that have had their webs seriously disturbed are likely to move. So the likelihood that a spider loses two webs in a row (carried off on the antlers of a deer, perhaps) is not very high. On top of that, spiders will eat their own silk. If you ever see a spider dropping down from the ceiling on a length of silk, bring your hand or your wallet or something up underneath it so that it gets encouraged to go back up to where it came from. You will then see that as it moves up its two front feet alternately deliver a length of silk to their mouth and the silk disappears without any observable pause. Who knows how much pollen and other edible stuff they consume in the same operation.P0M (talk) 01:56, 16 June 2012 (UTC)
  • How long does a piece of spider last last in good conditions? How long do spiders use them for? I'm sure it depends on what it is meant for, but is it possible to have more information about each use? Can a spider in a good location keep the same web for months or are all varieties of silk meant to degrade after a relatively short time?
As far as I know, the stuff is pretty nearly indestructible in open air. A web that is not pulled down will gradually accumulate dirt and it will end up a pretty disgusting mess, but the silk is still inside all the grime. The silk that was used for cross-hairs in telescopic rifle sights is still doing fine, as far as I have ever heard, decades after the last manufacturer shifted to something other than black widow silk to make his gun sights. I have a black widow spider web as a result of caputuring one to photograph. I think I caught that spider seven or eight years ago. The spider has died, but the web remains. Over the years it has attracted a little dust, even though the container only has small air holes, so it is a little easier to see than when it was fresh and nearly invisible. But it appears to be in perfect condition otherwise.P0M (talk) 01:56, 16 June 2012 (UTC)

I also second the question on the spider web discussion page.

Eje211 16:56, 13 October 2005 (UTC)


With regard to the "how much mass does a spider use up when creating a web" question, this is what I calculated:
According to this page, the density of spider silk is 1.3 g/cm3, and according to this page, the diameter of spider silk is 0.15 microns, and in this research they used a silk fiber with diameter of 2 microns. Let's be generous and use the 2 microns estimate. A typical web is roughly circular, is 10 cm across, and includes maybe 5 lines that run along a diamter, and maybe 20 that act as rings. Let's estimate then that the total length of silk is about (5*10 + 10*(3.14*10))cm = 364 cm. The volume of this is then (3.64 m)*( 3.14 * (1*10-6m)2 ) = 1*10-11m3 ! That's not a whole lot of volume, when you consider that a spider has a volume of, say, 1cm*1cm*1cm = 1*10-6m3. It doesn't seem that the mass used up in creating a web is very much compared to the mass of the spider itself. The amount of bio-energy used up to make all that protein and spin it out and weave it is possibly more significant.

I removed the 'citation needed' from the first paragraph, based on the above, another page I found, and math: Even using the biggest number I have seen, 7 μm, as a thread diameter:
Weight of a strand long enough to encircle the earth = Thread density * Thread cross-sectional area * Earth circumference
= δt * At * RE
= 1.3 g/cm3 * ( π * (3.5 μm)^2 ) * 6378.137 km (equatorial)
= 1.3 g/cm3 * 3.84 × 10-11 m2 * 6378.137 km
= 1.3 g/cm3 * 245.45927 cm3
= 319 g

But, since we only started with one significant digit, the best answer is "about 300 g". Certainly less than 400 g though. --208.99.195.54 18:14, 18 May 2007 (UTC)

Looks good to me. Just something to add: Spider silk is both a liability in that it takes protein to make it and that it is a clue to predators that hunt spiders. Accordingly, SOME spiders (NOT all!) spin a new web each night and eat it in the morning partly for security and partly for recycling. If I remember at the right time and no one beats me to it, I'll add text to that effect. JonRichfield (talk) 07:47, 22 July 2011 (UTC)

More Inaccurate Text[edit]

I didn't remove any text, but there is a statement that Nexia has given up research on producing artifical spider silk, and this is not true. Nexia, in collaboration with the University of Wyomming, is producing mass quantities of goat milk that is already enriched with the spider proteins (ADF 3 and ADF 4).

You may have read an old souce... the goats owned by Nexia did indeed produce the silk dope that they were hoping for; however, they found it impossible to spin the liquid into actual threads of silk. The silk dope requires the spinnerettes to properly weave and fold the silk so that it has the correct properties. Nexia, without enough funding, simply could not work it. The project was dropped, and the goats were killed. PETA (people for the ethical treatment of animals) was upset by the incident, claiming that the slaughter of innocent goats who HAD DONE WHAT THEY WERE EXPECTED TO DO, was inhumane, especially seeing as how genetically altered goats are illegal to sell as a food product, so their death was a waste of life with no benefit to humanity. Of course, to defend Nexia, I must agree that taking care of goats for several years after the funding had been cut and simply waiting for them to die would be an economical hardship on such a business. Nexia is not very good at resource management. -Tillie

A company called Kraig Biocraft Laboratories has brought the research from the University of Wyoming along with research from the University of Notre Dame in a collaberative effort to create a silkworm that is genetically altered to produce spider silk. In a recent press conference at the University of Notre Dame the effort on behalf of the Universities and Kraig Labs prooved to be a success. No goats were harmed in the typing of this footnote. -MFG. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 72.130.164.53 (talk) 06:49, 12 October 2010 (UTC)

I do have a problem, however, with the following: "Spider silk, normally that of the golden orb spider, is occasionally harvested and spun into usable textiles. Due to the difficulty of the process, the resulting fabric is invariably extremely expensive, and is generally utilized in fine couture." I have never heard of "fine couture" but I think "haute couture" may be what is meant. However, seeing as there are very few haute couture houses and spider silk is not massed produced, you would think there would be something, somewhere in the world to agree with this text. I cannot find anything, and I believe this information is incorrect and should, perhaps, be removed. I would do it myself, but perhaps instead someone could find a source? -tillie —Preceding unsigned comment added by 68.8.32.139 (talk) 10:04, 26 October 2007 (UTC)

Do all spiders make such hard silk?[edit]

I occasionally have spiders (small ones) in my house, but I can ruin their webs with a simple wave of my hand (though I try not to, since they eat insects). Do only some species of spiders make strong silk, or are those webs only weak because they are so thin (I can sometimes not even see them under certain lighting conditions, surely an advantageous trait for trapping insects) and they would be tough indeed if woven into a thicker thread or fabric?

The thickness and strength of spider silk varies between spider species. It also depends on the type of silk being produced, dragline silk is strong and rigid, while eggsac silk has a much lower strength, allowing the young to emerge.

Typically Argiope and Nephila (St andrews cross and Banana spider respectivly) dragline silks are studied for structural applications. These are both large tropical spiders, the larger size makes them easier to work with, and they produce strong webs to catch larger prey. In contrast lycosa (wolf spiders)dont create an orb style web, and are largely a hunting spider, So they produce less types of silk, none with the dragline qualities of an Argiope or Nephila

Thickness and density of silk strand[edit]

How thick is a strand of silk, and what density does the material have? IMHO, this is more interesting than the factoid about the weight of a strand around the earth, which answers none of the questions. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by 83.181.2.44 (talk) 07:30, 5 December 2006 (UTC). there is no way to find the answer —Preceding unsigned comment added by 59.163.146.9 (talk) 13:18, 2 September 2008 (UTC)

What about cutting it[edit]

I'm told it is very tough, but you can cut it easily, it is only tough holding back something that hits it. The snare (talk) 00:39, 19 June 2011 (UTC)

Pencil?[edit]

A strand of spider silk with the thickness of that of a pencil (roughly) is so strong that it is believed to be able to stop a Boeing 747 aircraft in flight.

Can anyone give some references here? How much force is needed to stop a 747 in flight? What type of 747(the weight of the 747 differ by type: Boeing 747#Specifications)? Stopping it meaning be able to just stop it, or actually hanging it up and supporting its weight? It is very strange to see a sentence like this since the force required varies with different stopping time(i.e. deceleration) and is not a good example. Normally wouldn't it be a sentence like a strand of silk with the thickness of X can support a weight of Y? MythSearchertalk 08:09, 20 June 2007 (UTC)


I assumed that the phrase meant that the strength of a given sample of x diameter was greater than the thrust of the Boeing 747. Pretty famous example, but possibly over simplified.

As a second thought, I think that if you knew the initial velocity (flight velocity) and the mass, you could say that the spider web would be capable of absorbing that much energy, which could be computed using force * distance. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 128.164.190.107 (talk) 05:17, 8 December 2008 (UTC)

That objection is correct. The original statement is too vague by far. For one thing, it is meaningless if one does not include the length of the pencil. If it is say, half as long as a filament that can just stop the jet, it would need to be at last twice the diameter, if my slide rule is working correctly. JonRichfield (talk) 07:47, 22 July 2011 (UTC)

Unclear meaning[edit]

"Argiope argentata has five different types of silk, each for a different purpose:[2][3]

dragline silk: Used for the web's outer rim and spokes, as well as for the lifeline. As strong as steel, but much tougher. "

What is the difference between strength and toughness? Am I missing a subtle distinction?DBSouthwell 09:44, 28 July 2007 (UTC)

In case anyone is still wondering, strength is a measure of how much stress at failure point, toughness of how much work to get there —Preceding unsigned comment added by 131.215.220.132 (talk) 21:55, 11 April 2008 (UTC)


"Methods have been developed to silk a spider forcibly"[edit]

sorry but that sounds like someone from peta wanted to get their 2 cents in.86.42.191.36 (talk) 18:55, 6 July 2009 (UTC)

A new article that may be of some use, if someone would like to include it somewhere.[edit]

Saw this on the slashdot firehose, http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2009/09/spider-silk/ It covers the only large piece of cloth made from spider silk in existence today. Xx3nvyxx (talk) 21:59, 23 September 2009 (UTC)

Thanks a lot, I included a mention of it. --Cyclopia (talk) 00:45, 24 September 2009 (UTC)

Peter Parker, the Amazing Bulletproof Man[edit]

I recall hearing somewhere there were efforts to use silk for ballistic vests in the '90s. Anybody know who, & when? TREKphiler any time you're ready, Uhura 01:32, 27 November 2009 (UTC)

Biosynthesis[edit]

I found this group of articles which could help expand the biosynthesis process if any arachnid neurobiologists are interested. http://scholar.google.com/scholar?hl=en&lr=&q=related:v5wQZioKkXUJ:scholar.google.com/&um=1&ie=UTF-8&ei=dXr5TJH-FZKosAOi6-CfAg&sa=X&oi=science_links&ct=sl-related&resnum=3&ved=0CB4QzwIwAg Aditya.m4 (talk) 23:18, 3 December 2010 (UTC)

Additions for this article[edit]

Here are some additions that could be incorporated in to this article.

  1. Bullet-proof vests made with spider silk - Related article: Scientists Weave Spider Silk Into New Bulletproof Vests and a related google search
  2. An 11-foot long tapestry made entirely of spider silk - Related article: Gossamer Silk, From Spiders Spun and a related google search

Others are welcome to add this if I don't get back to it. - Hydroxonium (H3O+) 14:11, 1 February 2011 (UTC)

Additions[edit]

Hello Wikipedians!

Though in most cases the 'multiple editors & edits to a page' model produces excellent results, it can sometimes result in a patchy article that both includes spurious information while omitting key points of the topic.

I and some other editors have been working on some upgrades to this page which should bring the article into line with properly referenced current research, while also hopefully making it more cohesive, clearer and readable. We'll be uploading over the next few weeks.

We admit to being rather inexperienced in making edits, so constructive criticism is welcomed. Vincentsarego (talk) 12:41, 15 June 2011 (UTC)

File:IMAG0163-1.jpg Nominated for speedy Deletion[edit]

Icon Now Commons orange.svg An image used in this article, File:IMAG0163-1.jpg, has been nominated for speedy deletion at Wikimedia Commons for the following reason: Copyright violations
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Speedy deletions at commons tend to take longer than they do on Wikipedia, so there is no rush to respond. If you feel the deletion can be contested then please do so (commons:COM:SPEEDY has further information). Otherwise consider finding a replacement image before deletion occurs.

This notification is provided by a Bot --CommonsNotificationBot (talk) 00:13, 22 July 2011 (UTC)

FWIW, though it is not clear why the source of the picture is unhappy that it should be available to WP & WM, that does not matter; it is his right, after all. I say: "Delete forthwith."
The picture, though a nice one, is not essential to the article and I am sure that we can find a replacement suitable in context. I'll keep a lookout for something. JonRichfield (talk) 07:06, 22 July 2011 (UTC)
OK, just been out surfing. I found this site:
|Images of Golden spider silk
It seems to work as a link, and is IMO superior for our purposes. Why not ask AMNH whether they have any objection to our using it as is, or at least, if they do object, then whether we could simply link to the site till further notice?
Just asking!
JonRichfield (talk) 07:33, 22 July 2011 (UTC)

Beetle flax[edit]

Have re-added the beetle flax to the Biosynthesis section. Jon is usually correct in his suspicions, though in this case it was merely being unable to locate the reference at time of writing. For a reference to this unlikely fiber please see paragraph "Composition of a thread" p541 of Vollrath, F. Knight, D.P. (2001). "Liquid crystalline spinning of spider silk". Nature 410 (6828): 541–548. Bibcode 2001Natur.410..541V. doi:10.1038/35069000. PMID 11279484. The article is much improved, but is not yet finished. More significant edits will be forthcoming in the coming weeks if all goes to plan. Regards, Vincentsarego (talk) 16:01, 8 August 2011 (UTC)

Inaccurate text[edit]

The side chain of glycine is a single hydrogen, and is therefore smaller than the side chain of alanine which is a methyl group. The article claims the opposite. Thus the description of the molecular structure is partially incorrect. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 206.117.40.12 (talk) 04:03, 23 August 2011 (UTC)

No information on breakdown[edit]

What dissolves it? There is no mention of this. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 50.47.132.26 (talk) 17:16, 2 September 2011 (UTC)

I don't think anything can "dissolve" it in the way that water dissolves salt, which can later recrystallize as salt after the water begins to evaporate. Since the web material is a protein, probably any class of agents that can disassemble other proteins (some human stomach acid for instance) will probably disassemble spider silk. Also, enzymes that work on proteins may be suitable for spider silk. Judging by the amount of effort that has gone into synthesis, getting silk to break down must not be nearly as difficult as getting its ingredients to assemble into the desired proteins. Spiders can digest their own silk. P0M (talk) 02:09, 16 June 2012 (UTC)

GM Silkworm work has been published[edit]

The research on genetically-modified silkworms by the University of Wyoming (Laramie, WY), Zhejiang University (Hangzhou, PRC) and Notre Dame University, has been published. Reference: Florence Teuléa, Yun-Gen Miaob, Bong-Hee Sohnc, Young-Soo Kimc, J. Joe Hulla, Malcolm J. Fraser, Jr., Randolph V. Lewisa and Donald L. Jarvis, "Silkworms transformed with chimeric silkworm/spider silk genes spin composite silk fibers with improved mechanical properties," Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci., vol. 109, no. 3 (January 17, 2012), pp. 923-928 (http://www.pnas.org/content/109/3/923.abstract). — Preceding unsigned comment added by DMGualtieri (talkcontribs) 11:45, 7 March 2012 (UTC)

In effect - silkworms have been successfully genetically modified to produce spider silk. This is desirable as it is far easier to 'farm' the silkworms than spiders. (Genes controlling the formation of the spinneret were transferred to the silkworm.) This really should be mentioned in the article --71.38.170.27 (talk) 05:15, 12 November 2012 (UTC)

manufacturing equivalents[edit]

As a compromise, wny not say "attempts at synthesizing..."? "Manufacturing silk" is a little unclear because "manufacturing silk" can be short for "manufacturing silk fabric," which is what I actually thought for the first second or so of clicking on the diff.P0M (talk) 01:33, 16 June 2012 (UTC)

My original simplification of the section title included the word synthetic, but then I noticed some of the methods relied on natural processes, which isn't really synthetic. (Hohum @) 01:47, 16 June 2012 (UTC)
Isn't there such a thing as "bio-synthesis"? I think that even if spider silk would squirt out of the teat of a goat it would still be regarded as "synthetic." Don't we say that certain animals are capable of synthesizing certain essential amino acids that humans have to harvest from other animals? To syn-thesize just means joining some parts together to get something more complex, I think.
If we could analyze something to get spider silk, that would be like putting crude oil into a cat-cracker, no?
"Manufacturing" literally means to make by use of human hands, so anything that happens in a chem lab that is called "manufacturing" is probably using an extended sense of that word. (It's a little like calling a computer a "machine.")
If the section's text explains how these spider silks are produced by highjacking the processes goats use to make milk, or whatever, I don't think "synthesizing silk" in the section heading will mislead anybody.P0M (talk) 02:27, 16 June 2012 (UTC)
I have a concern that "manufacturing" doesn't address the fact it's a synthetic product (since it might refer to use of natural product), & "synthetic" doesn't deal with manufacturing process. TREKphiler any time you're ready, Uhura 20:25, 16 June 2012 (UTC)
I took your suggestion and used "producing synthetic" in the section head. One of the original edit comments suggested doing so.P0M (talk) 19:53, 19 June 2012 (UTC)

Cloth[edit]

The Madagascar cape is magnificent, but surely not the only piece of spider web cloth around. How about the picture on spider silk in Chester Cathedral? http://www.slowtrav.com/uk/notes/chester_travel_guide.htm (possibly not the best reference, but the thing does exist - I've seen it). This ref refers to the Chester picture being 'one of only two left in the world' - what's the other one? Peridon (talk) 13:49, 14 July 2012 (UTC)

Ballooning vs. Kiting[edit]

~Eric F 74.60.29.141 (talk) 17:08, 2 November 2012 (UTC)

Gossamer[edit]

Isn't "gossamer" a unique type of silk (lighter weight per length), or is it simply synonymous with "spider silk"? 'Gossamer' is not listed as a 'type' in either table.
Example:
"Many small spiders use gossamer or especially fine silk to lift themselves off a surface or use the silk as an anchor in mid air. The very fine silk used for ballooning has been called “gossamer” since 1325 and was not originally known to be produced by spiders; by extension, the same word is used metaphorically for any exceedingly fine thread or fabric. Biologists also apply the term “balloon silk” to the threads that mechanically lift and drag systems."[1]

See also: How Spiders Create Silk Threads: Lowering pH Regulates Spider’s Silk Production, Researchers Find ~E again 74.60.29.141 (talk) 19:33, 26 October 2012 (UTC)

I think there would have to be some feature of spider anatomy that could account for yet another kind of silk before anyone would assume that gossamer is not just an ordinary silk used for another purpose. As far as I know there is no research support for this idea.P0M (talk) 23:29, 12 November 2012 (UTC)
I've found a website (http://gizmodo.com/5650464/how-spiders-took-over-the-sky) that gives an excerpt from Spider Silk: Evolution and 400 Million Years of Spinning, Waiting, Snagging, and Mating by Leslie Brunetta and Catherine L. Craig. It says the spiders use "major ampullate silk," i.e., dragline silk, for ballooning.P0M (talk) 02:27, 13 November 2012 (UTC)

Capitalised Spider[edit]

At 12:12, 15 March 2013‎ Kilroy117 turned each mention of the word 'spider' into 'Badger'. Moments later, at 12:27, 15 March 2013‎ 134.126.224.77 turned each 'Badger' into 'Spider'. The capitalization is unnecessary. Please could this be fixed? Thanks Vincentsarego (talk) 12:53, 9 April 2013 (UTC)