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Aggregate Silk Gland Secretions of Araneoid Spiders

Abstract

Aggregate silk glands (Ag) of araneoid spiders are unusual because their products are not dry fibers but aqueous secretions, best known for acting as glues that aid in prey capture. We review what is currently known regarding the composition and occurrence of these secretions among builders of orb webs (primarily Nephilidae, Araneidae), cobwebs (Theridiidae), and sheet webs (Linyphiidae) and how the use of these secretions differs among these three lifestyles. For cobweb builders, the separation of the two pairs of Ag into morphologically, compositionally, and functionally distinct “typical” and “atypical” Ag types adds further complexity to an understanding of their secretions. Possible roles played by small molecule components of Ag secretions and aspects of their synthesis are considered. In orb webs and cobwebs, aggregate secretions produce the sticky droplets on the web’s sticky spiral and gumfoot lines, respectively. The droplets, at least in orb webs, are not homogeneous, and we discuss current ideas on organization and function within the droplets. We also review recent work on the physical behavior of sticky droplets in orb webs and cobwebs. This includes the recognition that adhesive force generated in orb webs is attributable to more than just the glycoprotein glue’s adhesion to a surface. Limits imposed by natural selection on the stickiness of the glue are also discussed.

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Townley, M.A., Tillinghast, E.K. (2013). Aggregate Silk Gland Secretions of Araneoid Spiders. In: Nentwig, W. (eds) Spider Ecophysiology. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-33989-9_21

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