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Raw materials & technologies, Applications

New bionic adhesive could be interesting for the wood industry

Monday, 19 December 2016

A new bionic adhesive of the world-renowned glowworm group Arachnocampa could be interesting for the wood industry.

Prey capture system of the world-renowned glowworm group <emphasize>Arachnocampa. </emphasize>Source: Janek von Byern/TU Vienna

Prey capture system of the world-renowned glowworm group Arachnocampa. Source: Janek von Byern/TU Vienna

Animals use adhesive secretions in a plethora of ways, either for attachment, egg anchorage, mating or as either active or passive defence.

Bonding within milliseconds

The most interesting function, however, is the use of adhesive threads to capture prey, as the bonding must be performed within milliseconds and under unsuitable conditions (movement of prey, variable environmental conditions, unfavourable attack angle, etc.) to be nonetheless successful. In the following study a detailed characterisation of the prey capture system of the world-renowned glowworm group Arachnocampa from the macroscopic to the ultrastructural level is performed.

Droplets consist mostly of water

The data reveal that the adhesive droplets consist mostly of water and display hygroscopic properties at varying humidity levels. The droplet core of Arachnocampa luminosa includes a certain amount of the elements sodium, sulphur and potassium (beside carbon, oxygen and nitrogen), while a different element composition is found in the two related species A. richardsae and A. tasmaniensis. Evidence for lipids, carbohydrates and proteins was negative on the histochemical level, however X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy confirm the presence of peptides within the droplet content.

Urea or uric acid are present

Different to earlier assumptions, the present study indicates that rather than oxalic acid, urea or uric acid are present in the adhesive droplets, presumably originating from the gut. Comparing the capture system in Arachnocampa with those of orb-spiders, large differences appear not only regarding the silky threads, but also, in the composition, hygroscopic properties and size of the mucous droplets.

The study is published in: Plos one.

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