Biomechanical properties of fishing lines of the glowworm Arachnocampa luminosa (Diptera; Keroplatidae)

Janek von Byern, Pete Chandler, David Merritt, Wolfram Adlassnig, Ian Stringer, Victor Benno Meyer-Rochow, Alexander Kovalev, Victoria Dorrer, Simone Dimartino, Martina Marchetti-Deschmann, Stanislav Gorb

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Animals use adhesive secretions in highly diverse ways, such as for settlement, egg anchorage, mating, active or passive defence, etc. One of the most interesting functions is the use of bioadhesives to capture prey, as the bonding has to be performed within milliseconds and often under unfavourable conditions. While much is understood about the adhesive and biomechanical properties of the threads of other hunters such as spiders, barely anything is documented about those of the New Zealand glowworm Arachnocampa luminosa. We analysed tensile properties of the fishing lines of the New Zealand glowworm Arachnocampa luminosa under natural and dry conditions and measured their adhesion energy to different surfaces. The capture system of A. luminosa is highly adapted to the prevailing conditions (13–15 °C, relative humidity of 98%) whereby the wet fishing lines only show a bonding ability at high relative humidity (>80%) with a mean adhesive energy from 20–45 N/m and a stronger adhesion to polar surfaces. Wet threads show a slightly higher breaking strain value than dried threads, whereas the tensile strength of wet threads was much lower. The analyses show that breaking stress and strain values in Arachnocampa luminosa were very low in comparison to related Arachnocampa species and spider silk threads but exhibit much higher adhesion energy values. While the mechanical differences between the threads of various Arachnocampa species might be consequence of the different sampling and handling of the threads prior to the tests, differences to spiders could be explained by habitat differences and differences in the material ultrastructure. Orb web spiders produce viscid silk consisting of β-pleated sheets, whereas Arachnocampa has cross-β–sheet crystallites within its silk. As a functional explanation, the low tear strength for A. luminosa comprises a safety mechanism and ensures the entire nest is not pulled down by prey which is too heavy.
Original languageEnglish
JournalScientific Reports
Early online date28 Feb 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 28 Feb 2019


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