The glue-coated and wet capture spiral of the orb web of the garden cross spider Araneus diadematus is suspended between the dry silk radial and web frame threads. Here, we experimentally demonstrate that the capture spiral is electrically conductive because of necks of liquid connecting the droplets even if the thread is stretched. We examine how this conductivity of the capture spiral may lead to entrapment of charged airborne particles such as pollen, spray droplets and even insects. We further describe and model how the conducting spiral will also locally distort the Earth's ambient electric field. Finally, we examine the hypothesis that such distortion could be used by potential prey to detect the presence of a web but conclude that any effect would probably be too small to allow an insect to take evasive action.
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We thank the Science and Engineering Research Council of the UK for funding the original study in 1985 and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (FA9550-12-1-0294) and European Research Council (324607) for funding the recent follow-up analysis by FV. FV also thanks a patient editor, four excellent anonymous reviewers and Sebastien Neukirch for helpful comments. Donald Edmonds sadly passed away last year after a long illness.
Donald Edmonds is deceased.
Communicated by: Sven Thatje
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Vollrath, F., Edmonds, D. Consequences of electrical conductivity in an orb spider's capture web. Naturwissenschaften 100, 1163–1169 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00114-013-1120-8
- Electrostatic charges
- Airborne particles
- Earth electric field