Anchor threads can double the insect flight energy absorbed by spider orb webs

J Exp Biol. 2023 Jan 15;226(2):jeb245123. doi: 10.1242/jeb.245123. Epub 2023 Jan 26.

Abstract

To successfully capture flying insect prey, a spider's orb web must withstand the energy of impact without the silk breaking. In this study, we examined the anchor threads: the silk lines that anchor the main capture area of the web to the surrounding environment. These anchor threads can account for a large portion of the web, yet are usually excluded from experiments and simulations. We compared projectile capture and kinetic energy absorption between webs with and without access to anchor threads. Webs with anchor threads captured significantly more projectiles and absorbed significantly more energy than those with constrained anchors. This is likely because the anchor threads increase web compliance, resulting in webs with the ability to catch high-energy flying insects without breaking. Anchor threads are one example of how different types of web architecture expand the range of possible prey capture strategies by enabling the web to withstand greater impacts.

Keywords: Spider web architecture; Web energy absorption; Web prey capture.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Kinetics
  • Predatory Behavior
  • Silk
  • Spiders*

Substances

  • Silk