high performance of webs

high performance of webs - J. R. Soc. Interface...

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R EVIEW High-performance spider webs: integrating biomechanics, ecology and behaviour Aaron M. T. Harmer 1, *, Todd A. Blackledge 2 , Joshua S. Madin 1 and Marie E. Herberstein 1 1 Department of Biological Sciences, Macquarie University, Sydney 2109, Australia 2 Department of Biology and Integrated Bioscience Program, University of Akron, Akron, OH 44325-3908, USA Spider silks exhibit remarkable properties, surpassing most natural and synthetic materials in both strength and toughness. Orb-web spider dragline silk is the focus of intense research by material scientists attempting to mimic these naturally produced Fbres. However, biome- chanical research on spider silks is often removed from the context of web ecology and spider foraging behaviour. Similarly, evolutionary and ecological research on spiders rarely considers the signiFcance of silk properties. Here, we highlight the critical need to integrate biomechanical and ecological perspectives on spider silks to generate a better understanding of (i) how silk biomechanics and web architectures interacted to influence spider web evolution along different structural pathways, and (ii) how silks function in an ecological context, which may identify novel silk applications. An integrative, mechan- istic approach to understanding silk and web function, as well as the selective pressures driving their evolution, will help uncover the potential impacts of environmental change and species invasions (of both spiders and prey) on spider success. Integrating these Felds will also allow us to take advantage of the remarkable properties of spider silks, expanding the range of possible silk applications from single threads to two- and three-dimensional thread networks. Keywords: biomaterials; biomimetics; dragline silk; ecology; evolution; orb-web spider 1. INTRODUCTION Some animals produce non-living structures external to their bodies that are critical for survival [ 1 ], for example the calciFed skeletons of corals, the shells of molluscs, the byssal threads of mussels or the webs of spiders. The interactions between the sizes and shapes of these biological structures and their biomechanical properties have signiFcant ecological and evolutionary impli- cations. ±or instance, growth architectures and mechanical limitations of coral species fundamentally determine their ecologies across gradients of wave exposure [ 2 ]. Predation drives the evolution of gastro- pod shell structures that are more resistant to crushing [ 3 ]. Web-building spiders rely on the critical interplay between web structure and the biomechanical properties of their silks to successfully capture prey [ 4 ]. However, many biological systems suffer from a general disconnect between investigations focusing on the evolution and ecologies of structures, and those focusing on material properties, despite their clear interdepen- dence in determining performance and, subsequently, an organism’s Ftness.
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high performance of webs - J. R. Soc. Interface...

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