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Genomics and Spider Glue Evolution

Bioadhesives do not merely appear within a population. These amazing glues have been systematically evolved to fulfill a specific ecological niche. We hope by studying the glues created by the Cyrtarachninae subfamily, we can find the genetic basis for the hyperthreading and rapidly drying adhesive properties which appear to be unique to these species.


Though our research has primarily focused on the glues produced by the species Cyrtarachne akirai, it is merely one within an entire subfamily of moth specialist species. The Cyrtarachninae subfamily includes many species of Cyrtarachne, as well as other genres with their own unique web structures to capture moths. The Pascilobus genus creates merely a pizza slice web but relies on seemingly the same glue and properties. The most extreme of these species is the bolas spider who has removed its web entirely, deciding to only use a single thread and glue droplet. We hope to track the evolution of these glues as the structure of these capture webs changed.

Future Directions

The unique glue of Cyrtarachninae spiders could be the consequence of behavioral changes during web production but we believe that it is more likely a change in the protein structure of the glues. Our research hopes to reconstruct previous phylogenetic relationships through tracking changes in spider aggregate glue gene sequences. By looking at the genes that code for the silk in Cyrtarachninae species and comparing them too closely related but none moth-specialist spiders we can track amino acid level changes in silk structure. By dissecting and separating out the aggregate glands from other parts of the spider we can work to identify the proteins actively being expressed in their silk glands! We can then run proteomics to discover their structure and relative levels! Because these species are rare and spread throughout the world we are lucky enough to have found and be working with collaborators in New Zealand, Japan, and South Africa.

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