Monday, December 3, 2018

Nature's Kevlar

Police, Gas Mask, Riot, Protection, War I love watching certain television series because someone makes a weird claim that turns out to be based in reality.  Imagine being able to make light weight bullet proof vests made out of very natural fibers!  Imagine it being made out of sustainable fibers!

Scientists have discovered the silk produced by this spider is at least twice as strong as normal spider silk and ten times stronger than Kevlar.

This particular spider was discovered in the jungles of Madagascar on the 150th anniversary of the publication of Charles Darwin's "On the Origin of the Species".  Thus the name Darwin's Bark Spider.  The spider creates the largest circular shaped webs of up to 30 feet square over lakes, rivers, and other bodies of water in order to catch its food.  Yet the female's body is about one inch long while the male's body is about a quarter that size. 

The web is built by sending a single thread across the body of water to attach on a tree on the other side by using wind currents.  Once that strand is secure, the spider crawls to the center of the strand and begins spinning the traditional circular web until it spans the whole body of water.  

The silk used in the web appears to be twice as elastic as that made by other spiders, almost twice as strong and at least ten times stronger than Kevlar. It appears the strength of the silk is an evolutionary development when the spiders moved inland so they could place the webs over water, take advantage of the air currents to catch dinner. 

Scientists have yet to determine why such as small spider needs such large webs.  They are also not sure why the strands are so strong.  They theorize that the spiders may be using a different type of protein or it might be the way the silk is spun that gives it its strength but they already see technological possibilities once they decode the how and why of the spun silk.

Unfortunately, it would be very difficult to raise these spiders in captivity because they are cannibalistic and if in the same container would eat each other. It is possible to splice the gene into silkworms to produce the silk but that has had only limited success because its very difficult to reproduce the proteins form spider silk.  In addition, they still have to figure out how to spin the spider silk into thread.

There is at least one company out there claiming success but it is not commercially successful.  Yes the silk could be used to make lighter weight protective vests but could also be used in aeronautics,  civil engineering, wound healing and a variety of other uses.  So at this time, its still in the research stages but there is potential for commercial development once certain problems are overcome.

Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day.



  1. This is so interesting! 30 foot spider webs...crazy!!!

    1. It is indeed interesting. I realized 30 food spider webs are like the size of a huge living room or classroom. Thank you for stopping by to read this.