Spiders (order Araneae) are air-breathing arthropods that have eight legs, and chelicerae with fangs that inject venom. They are the largest order of arachnids and rank seventh in total species diversity among all other groups of organisms. Spiders are found worldwide on every continent except for Antarctica, and have become established in nearly every habitat with the exception of air and sea colonization. As of 2008, approximately 40,000 spider species, and 109 families have been recorded by taxonomists.
- Spiders were around long before humans, and it is likely they will be around in some number far into the future, even if humans are not. When most land and sea animals died out during the Permian mass extinction, spiders survived. Spiders thrived when oxygen levels were both lower and higher than today, when the sunlight hitting the ground was both stronger and weaker, and when plant and animal populations were both greater and smaller. Silk and the evolvable nature of the genes that dictate it have enabled spiders to stake a claim on the land for hundreds of millions of years and they are likely to do so for hundreds of millions of years to come.
- Leslie Brunetta & Catherine L. Craig, Spider Silk (2010), Chapter 12, "Endless Forms" (p. 190).
- I've lately had two spiders
Crawling upon my startled hopes—
Now though thy friendly hand has brushed 'em from me,
Yet still they crawl offensive to mine eyes:
I would have some kind friend to tread upon 'em.
- Colley Cibber, Richard III (Altered) (1700), Act IV, scene 2, line 15.
- Spider silk is often touted as some of the strongest material on Earth: According to some calculations, it can be up to five times stronger than steel cable of similar weight—though that comparison is not perfect. If humans could manufacture spider silk on an industrial scale, which they’ve been trying to do for decades, it could lead to an era of lightweight bulletproof vests, helmets, superstrong threads and patches that could be used during surgery and even lightweight airplane fuselages.
- In their latest study in the journal ACS Macro Letters, the team found that instead of being one long strand of protein, the ribbon of silk is composed entirely of 1 micron-long nanostrands stuck together in parallel. Typically, about 2,500 of these mini-strands clung together to form one strand of silk.
“We were expecting to find that the fiber was a single mass,” co-author Hannes Schniepp of William & Mary says in a statement. “But what we found was that the silk was actually a kind of tiny cable.”
- This isn't the team's first silken discovery either. In a 2017 study, they looked closely at how the little arachnids spin their silk, finding that they create tiny loops which add toughess to the fibers. Each strand has up to 500 loops per inch. Miceli reports that previous studies had proposed that nanostrands were involved in the makeup of the silk, but no one had considered that the entire strand would be composed of them. Armed with the new research and information about the loops, the researchers have now created a new model for the spider silk’s structure. The nanotendrils aren't braided together like in a rope cable, but are instead stuck together with relativley weak bonds. When they act as a whole, however, the strands give the silk its incredible strength.
- Jason Daley, “Brown Recluse Silk Is Stronger Than Steel Because It’s Constructed Like a Cable”, Smithsonian.com, (November 21, 2018).
- Spiders can't fly, but they can naturally paraglide. Their ability is known as ballooning, and scientists have now shown that it extends further than windy thermals. Electric fields are strong enough to trigger ballooning even when there's no wind.
- Ballooning has fascinated scientists for years. Charles Darwin noted its occurrence aboard the HMS Beagle, filling the ship with more spiders than he would have cared for. Spiders have proven quite adept at riding the waves, electric or otherwise, even measuring out the wind strength and adjusting themselves accordingly.
- David Grossman, "Spiders Can Harness Electric Fields to Fly", Popular Mechanics, (Jul 5, 2018).
- He thought about spiders, twisting thread into beautiful symmetry, taming chaos with ordered nets that greeted the dawn, hung with globes of dew that caught and held cores of sunlight, and tiny images of the world.
- A spider lowered itself, fathom by fathom, on a perilous length of thread and was suddenly transfixed in the path of a sunbeam and, for an instant, was a thing of radiant gold.
- Mervyn Peake, Gormenghast (1950), Chapter 4.
- The spider's touch, how exquisitely fine!
Feels at each thread, and lives along the line.
- Alexander Pope, An Essay on Man (1733-34), Epistle I, line 217.
- The spider hung motionless, like a dull brown gem in an intricate necklace. The web was complete, now, the last strands laid delicately in place; it stretched from one side of the ceiling corner to the other, quivering gently in the rising air as though strummed by invisible hands.
For a moment Isgrimnur lost the thread of talk, important talk though it was. His eyes had drifted from the worried faces huddled near the fireplace in the great hall, roving up to the darkened corner, and to the tiny builder at rest.
There’s sense, he told himself. You build something and then you stay there. That’s the way it’s meant to be. Not this running here, running there, never see your blood-family or your home roofs for a year at a time.
- Tad Williams, The Dragonbone Chair (1988), Chapter 37.
Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations
- Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 745.
- Much like a subtle spider, which doth sit
In middle of her web, which spreadeth wide:
If aught do touch the utmost thread of it,
She feels it instantly on every side.
- Sir John Davies, The Immortality of the Soul, Section XVIII, Feeling.
- Or (almost) like a Spider, who, confin'd
In her Web's centre, shakt with every winde,
Moves in an instant, if the buzzing Flie
Stir but a string of her Lawn Canopie.
- Guillaume de Salluste Du Bartas, Divine Weekes and Workes, First Week, Sixth Day, line 998.
- "Will you walk into my parlour?"
Said a spider to a fly;
"'Tis the prettiest little parlour
That ever you did spy."
- Mary Howitt, The Spider and the Fly.