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Spider silk comes with a “well-designed adhesive”

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It is well known that orb-weaving spiders put droplets of adhesive all over their webs to catch prey. Although there have been many attempts to study the nature of these adhesives, it is only recently that experiment designs have allowed the mechanism of adhesion to be analysed properly. Single adhesive droplets have been probed at varying extension rates.

“Here, by directly probing single adhesive droplets used by spiders, we demonstrate the importance of the mechanics of adhesive in dramatically enhancing adhesion. We show that glue drops function as a viscoelastic material instead of as a viscous material and that the elasticity of the principle adhesive in this system, the glycoproteins, increases adhesion by two orders of magnitude in comparison with capillary forces, thus putting to rest the old notion of the adhesive being viscous.”

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If we could copy the spider's chemical wizardry—two species even produce seven varieties of silk—imagine how it could be put to use! In vastly improved seat belts as well as in sutures, artificial ligaments, lightweight lines and cables, and bulletproof fabrics, to name just a few possibilities. Scientists are also trying to understand how the spider makes silk so efficiently—and without the use of toxic chemicals. What does the adhesive do for a spider if it doesn’t know how to use it, either consciously or automatically? This came to mind when reading your question: Does it seem logical to you, then, for highly trained researchers who crudely mimic systems in nature to solve difficult engineering problems to attribute the genius of devising the original idea to unintelligent evolution? If the copy requires an intelligent designer, what about the original? Really, who deserves more credit, the master artist or the student who imitates his technique? Barb
uoflcard Your post made me laugh. Especially the last part. That is exactly how I feel. Evolutionists today sort of remind me of when scientists believed in spontaneous generation or whatever it was called. You know because maggots appeared from rotting food that life just appeared. They developed all kinds of recipes for the different life forms. Cable
uoflcard: there are indeed millions of example of amazing function, almost ever irreducibly compex, and none of them even remotely explicable through a darwinian model, in the animal world. Many of them can be found in the interesting (although maybe a little bit repetitive) book "Nature's IQ". IMO, the most amazing are those regarding animals'organized behaviour. Unfortunately, many of these examples cannot yet be analyzed rigorously for the simple reason that they are too complex to build a quantitative model for them. So, while the intuitive evidence is overwhelming, it is not yet easy to make a detailed case for them. That's why we have ususally to stick to "simpler" examples, like the origin of protein domains, and so on. gpuccio
Here's an even greater difficulty for natural evolution to produce this: Let's just assume that this amazing adhesive did evolve through RM+NS. What does the adhesive do for a spider if it doesn't know how to use it, either consciously or automatically? It has to be located in the right location in the body, with a distribution mechanism (which is probably a series of mechanisms, including brain functions and a nerve network, knowing the tendency of biology), it must be secreted in the correct fashion, at the correct time, in the correct amount. It must be used so that it does not capture the spider itself (although that might be attributable to the viscoelasticity of the adhesive) or disrupt the internals of the spider. It is a tremendous mechatronic design challenge just to use the stuff even assuming it was trivial to evolve the mechanisms to produce the material in the first place! An engineer producing an automated system like this would probably win awards around the world and would have every career door they could dream of open to them. And RM+NS puttered along and produced this highly tuned system? And we are "lunatics" (as I have recently heard) for believing otherwise? Sometimes this debate leaves me a little light-headed; it is just absolutely unbelievable for me. uoflcard
Thank goodness for that smooth, continuous gradient of function of the spider web adhesive which allowed natural selection to choose the dozens (or hundreds? thousands?) of mutations needed to produce it! This gradient did exist, of course, because the adhesive exists. And natural evolution did it. Fact! uoflcard

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