Some surprises spun in silk

surprising uses of spider silk webs

Gossamer sounds like something very artistic, exquisite really of having almost a magical quality in the very way that it spells out. And fascinating it is indeed as much in vision as well, spanning out as those seemingly delicate spins and weaves of the web upon which a certain eight legged beauty of nature sprawls out the entire resplendence of it. Alluding to things fine and delicate and some sort of dreamy in general but deriving still from the characteristic ability of spiders to build their own homes out of something they produce in and by themselves as well is this gossamer glamour that though transcends still the mere show of beauty that it undoubtedly is. Because for all we have come to know in very pleasantly surprised an assertion of the spider kind, it is the stupendous fact that spider webs and by that extension or rather in derivation gossamer indeed harbours many a unique properties so amazingly useful that make all these webbers of human homes and the like powerful a presence in all the essence of them.

The potency of spider webs considered in the human context of what benefits this supposedly ultimate of all species on earth should not occur as anything rather disbelieving though. For even in all the unexpected nature of its power, the spider silk out of which these creatures create their characteristic webs is but ultimately some sort of a very strongly bound protein. That itself mostly explains the basis that makes spider webs a powerfully intriguing stemming of the natural world and that therefore necessarily has found use in a wide variety and range of their application. But despite all this obvious importance emanating from the otherworldly almost hang of these webs, it still feels somewhat surreal to discover that spider webs can and does indeed harbour curative and medicinal properties beneficial for humankind.

That is a discover not occurring as novel in any way though. With folks inhabiting the world as far as the times of ancientry in Europe having discovered the healing properties of spider silk, humans have indeed for long been harnessing all such benefits readily availed out of these protein rich webs. Traditional European medicine heavily relied on the proteinaceous essence of these webs to administer them on wounds and cuts for effective enough results. Rich in the essential vitamin K that is what aids the process of blood clotting in organisms, spider webs were quite common a remedy in such cases that called for efforts to be made to reduce bleeding.

Finding particular application in treatment of the injuries picked up by Greek and Roman soldiers of the past had been this specifically spiderous potential that helped in faster drying of wounds by helping to close them down. And that while already cuts off considerably the risk of infection aggravating the wounded existence, spiderwebs even further this process in healing by virtue of their antifungal and antiseptic and antimicrobial properties as well. Though of course not all webs weaved by all species of spiders would cater to this pursuit in healing since some of them can in fact be rather poisonous, the general notion is that spider webs still fare well enough when it comes to ‘attending’ to the bruised and injured human.

But given how proper usage of these webs in something as sensitive as the area of health is subject to a wide many considerations of hygiene and appropriateness and stuff, humans have eked out therefore ways and means to produce spider silk like materials artificially. And even when this venture in attempting to emulate the feats of the natural world is by no means an easy wonder to catch up to, scientists and researches have still managed to attain considerable success in this aspect. And with promises of additional benefits as well. Either as mediums in delivering medicines to the body or in aiding healing and regeneration of body tissues or even in producing such devices that only supplant the goals of modern medicine, this synthetically produced silk of almost the spider skill sans its gossamer magic still speaks of newer and interesting modes in beneficial discoveries accrued out of the essential spiderous reputation in living in these webs of a wide many wonders.

With such workings in no less wonder as the sophisticated application of both natural and synthetic spider silk proteins to causes as critically essential as bone tissue engineering and nerve regeneration, drawing upon such typical attributes of it as a reduced immune response and biodegradability, while asserting through more basic rendition in the form of bandages containing antibiotic properties, the modern times of today owes indeed much to the early human understanding of the immense versatility of spider silk and spider web in continuing to still harness as much possible of all that potential embedded therein.

Evoking thus as we have done already the character in versatility of the spider silk web renders us therefore to scout also such amazing benefits spun in this web of a certain charisma indeed that draw upon still its essential properties in what makes it up. Five times stronger than steel even when enticing in that fine and delicate spin of the gossamer gorgeousness, the case of the spider silk is a cause in all roundedness. Thin and light and flexible unlike any other such natural substance- read the traditional silk cocooned out of the resting stage of silkworms, spider silk specifically finds use in an ever widening spectrum of human needs ranging from textiles and automobiles, athletic and military wear, consumer goods and personal care products to pollution and chemical sensors. Therefore effectively attending to the two ultimate dimensions of modern human concern namely the technological and the medical is this silk naturally produced by most spiders as a very defining trait of their being.

While the utility derived out of spider silk and spider webs amounts to tremendous extents of it in the human context, the use of it even in the spider world is equally multifaceted. Beyond the ‘popular’ knowledge of spiders spinning webs to catch prey for food rather conveniently and of course effectively, spiders also often feed on these webs themselves to regain some of the lost energy spent on the intensive mechanism that the web weaving process turns out to be. In fact of almost daily adherence is this ritual in web ingestion and corresponding digestion by spiders that is what lends the silk proteins to be recycled inside their body. Fuelling thus the continuing process of spinning webs as a self sustaining means in existence would be spider silk that really presents itself as a material versatile in not just the use of it but also in its very nature of furthering the spidering essence.

Beyond food and more basically in fact, spider webs do indeed uphold the doctrine of continuity of this species. Functioning as nests for themselves or presenting as cocoons for their offspring while manifesting as means of transport or mediums of communication are these famed webs of nature that hang from just about every corner and on every surface possible. And yet, webs aren’t the only ‘thing’ that spiders have been conditioned to spend their silk on. For even with those categories of spider that do not weave their own webs, their bodies still produce the special type of stick silk to pursue other dimensions in usefulness. Of special importance in courtship and mating is the silk produced by female spiders through such working of them through pheromones summing up as a chemical process and in ways equally varied but most spectacularly through a ‘ritual’ called mate binding or bridal veil.

Of such maverick leaning is the essential character through which spiders express themselves that make them really one of the more creative geniuses of nature. And translating this embedded desire in them in occurring as almost art is of course the human fancy that has left no arena unexplored when it comes to making the most out of the wonderfully webbed essence of spiders. Of manifestations both general and particular is this artistic taking to the spider silk by humans ending up in either case with such sights that are surreal enough to efficiently evoke once again the magical almost musings flowing through the glow of gauzy gossamer.

The first case in point of this particular awareness of the aesthetic happens to be a 11 by 4 foot golden tinted cape made in 2009 from the silk of the Madagascar golden orb spider- some one million of them collected by eighty two people over a period of four years to extract silk enough to turn up this dazzling display availed out of the elegance of this creature profuse in its eight legged extravagance.

The second instance of a spidery beauty accounted for by humans and one that is no less stunning happens to be a more established notion in fanning the reaches of the artistic. Occurring as something as exclusive as gossamer painting or cobweb painting is this 16th century emergence out of the Puster valley in Austria where monks painted on canvasses religious miniatures entirely out of spider’s web or caterpillar’s silk. An immensely delicate art and one that is as exquisite as well, gossamer painting prevailed also in the following centuries albeit in very limited practices of them given how commanding it is of supreme requirements in impeccable skill and minute attention, so much so that only a 100 or so such specimens of this unfurling of the artistic exists today.