Fibre science: supercontraction stress in wet spider dragline

Nature. 2002 Mar 7;416(6876):37. doi: 10.1038/416037a.


Unrestrained spider dragline 'super-contracts' when it is wetted, causing its length to shrink by about half and its diameter to almost double. Here we measure the supercontraction stresses generated upon initial exposure of spider dragline to moisture and find that they are transient, as well as being greater than previously estimated. Our findings cast doubt on suggestions that supercontraction may help to maintain tension in wet webs and could limit the potential load-bearing applications of silk and its analogues.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Proteins*
  • Spiders / physiology*
  • Stress, Mechanical
  • Water


  • Proteins
  • Water