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Silky Tarantula Feet

June 8, 2011

Tarantulas produce life-saving silk from their feet.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

A tarantula’s back-up plan…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Spiderman shoots silk from his hands, and researchers have discovered that tarantulas can too. Zoologist Claire Rind of Newcastle University led the study. She and her students put tarantulas on a horizontal surface which they gradually raised until it was vertical.

CLAIRE RIND (Newcastle University):

When they were holding steady there, they didn’t secrete any silk, it’s only when we caused them to slip that they secreted the silk.

HIRSHON:

They then used a scanning electron microscope to confirm that the spiders produce the silk from tiny spigots on their feet.

RIND:

We actually saw silk fibers coming out of these tall hairs on the foot of the spider.

HIRSHON:

Rind says the silk helps the fragile spiders survive falls.

RIND:

It would be extremely useful for large spiders to have an auxiliary mechanism if their attachment system failed when they were climbing.

HIRSHON:

I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.