Mesomechanics of a three-dimensional spider web

I Su and MJ Buehler, JOURNAL OF THE MECHANICS AND PHYSICS OF SOLIDS, 144, 104096 (2020).

DOI: 10.1016/j.jmps.2020.104096

Spiders, silks and webs are abundant and can be found in most ecosystems: in the corner of houses, on top of bushes, or even spanning rivers. They are the proof of an evolutionary success as they were able to survive and prosper for millions of years despite being subjected to environmental and human threats, such as the displacement of spider web silk attachments or impact of prey, predators, and debris. Their success is in part due to the excellent mechanical properties of silk and webs that originate from their hierarchical structure of silk, ranging from silk protein, to fibers, to spider webs. Here, we investigate the mechanical behavior of highly complex Cyrtophora Citricola 3D spider web, the architecture of which has been digitally modeled with micron- scale details from images of full-scale laboratory experiments, under stretching and projectile impact, using coarse-grain bead-spring simulations. We show that the interplay between the nonlinear behavior of spider silk and the redundancy of complex 3D spider web structures is crucial for the robustness and resilience of spider webs. The tangle region of the spider web allows prey to fly through and be caught in the dense tent web region, providing food to the spider. It also filters out predators at low impact velocity, and consequently protects the spider located in the tent region. Understanding the role of the interplay between silk mechanics and 3D web structure in webs' evolutionary fitness could lead to high-performance and lightweight fiber network composite for structural, material and biomedical engineering. (C) 2020 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Return to Publications page