An investigation of the stickinness mechanism and the role of nodes in cribellar spider capture thread

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Virginia Tech


Sticky prey capture threads are produced by many members of the spider Infraorder Araneomorphae. Cribellar threads are plesiomorphic for this clade, and adhesive threads are apomorphic. The surface of cribellar thread is formed of thousands of fine fibrils. Basal araneomorphs produce cylindrical fibrils, whereas more derived members produce fibrils with nodes. Cribellar fibrils snag and hold rough surfaces, but other forces are required to explain their adherence to smooth surfaces. Threads of Hypochilus pococki (Hypochilidae) that are formed of non-noded fibrils hold to a smooth acetate surface with the same force under low and high humidities. In contrast, threads of Hyptiotes cavatus and Uloborus glomosus (Uloboridae) that are formed of noded fibrils hold with greater forces to the same surface at intermediate and high humidities. Threads spun by eight species representing seven genera and four families with noded fibrils absorb water, while that of two families, represented by one species each with smooth fibrils, repel water, indicating increase hygroscopisity associated with the presence of nodes. Additionally, equations describing van der Waals and hygroscopic forces can predict the observed stickiness of these threads. This model supports the hypothesis that van der Waals forces allow non-noded cribellar fibrils to adhere to smooth surfaces, whereas noded fibrils employ van der Waals forces at low humidities and add hygroscopic forces at higher humidities. Thus, there appear to have been two major events in the evolution of spider prey capture thread: the addition of hydrophilic nodes to the fibrils of cribellar threads and the replacement of cribellar fibrils by glycoprotein glue.



evolution of capture thread, hygriscopic adhesion, van der Waals, spider silk, cribellar thread