The effect of ageing on the mechanical properties of the silk of the bridge spider Larinioides cornutus (Clerck, 1757).
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Spider silk is regarded as one of the best natural polymer fibers especially in terms of low density, high tensile strength and high elongation until breaking. Since only a few bio-engineering studies have been focused on spider silk ageing, we conducted nano-tensile tests on the vertical naturally spun silk fibers of the bridge spider Larinioides cornutus (Clerck, 1757) (Arachnida, Araneae) to evaluate changes in the mechanical properties of the silk (ultimate stress and strain, Young's modulus, toughness) over time. We studied the natural process of silk ageing at different time intervals from spinning (20 seconds up to one month), comparing silk fibers spun from adult spiders collected in the field. Data were analyzed using Linear Mixed Models. We detected a positive trend versus time for the Young's modulus, indicating that aged silks are stiffer and possibly less effective in catching prey. Moreover, we observed a negative trend for the ultimate strain versus time, attesting a general decrement of the resistance force. These trends are interpreted as being due to the drying of the silk protein chains and the reorientation among the fibers.
AuthorsLepore, E; Isaia, M; Mammola, S; Pugno, N
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