Photo Essay

Nature Artwork

Little dew-drops of celestial melody

Spider webs have existed for at least 100 million years. Insects can get trapped in spider webs, providing nutrition to the spider. The creation is really amazing and they can be called as nature architect. Photographing such webs in morning hours is really interesting.

But it also provoked me to know why the spiderweb attracts dew drops. Few interesting facts from literature thought to share with you.

According to researcher findings, this may lead to the development of new materials that are able to capture water from the air.

The study, published in Nature, examines the silk of the hackled orbweaver spider Uloborus walckenaerius. "Bright, pearl-like water drops hang on thin spider silk in the morning after fogging," says study author Lei Jiang from the Beijing National Laboratory for Molecular Sciences. "It is unexpected and interesting. Human hair can't do that."

Dry spider silk forms a necklace-like structure. Two main fibres support a series of separate rounded 'puffs', each made up of tiny, randomly intertwined nanofibrils. When water vapour condenses onto these puffs, they shrink into densely packed knots, shaped like spindles (or two cones with their bases stuck together). Thinner connecting stretches of nanofibrils, separating the knots, become more apparent; these areas are called 'joints'.

The researchers studied the webs under both electron and light microscopes. They noticed that as water condenses on the web, droplets move towards the nearest spindle-knot, where they coalesce to form larger drops.

The spindle-knots have a rough surface, because the fibrils within them are randomly interweaved. But the joints between the knots have a smooth texture, because their constituent fibrils run parallel to each other. It is this difference in roughness that helps water drops to slide towards the spindle-knots, sticking when they arrive.

The cone shape of the spindle-knots also drives droplets towards their centre. Once they hit the edge of a cone, drops are propelled towards its base, the least curved region, because of the pressure difference caused by surface tension.

Guided by their findings, the team made their own artificial spider silk using nylon fibres dipped in a polymer solution that, when dried, formed spindle-knots similar to those in natural spider silk. They anticipate that their studies of these fibres could lead to new materials for collecting water from the air.

"It is impressive that they were able to produce an analogue of wetted [spider] thread that duplicated the properties that they observed," says spider silk expert Brent Opell of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg.

But it doesn't seem likely that natural selection has directed the evolution of this particular spider's silk for water collection, he adds. The spider's thread seems to have evolved to work best when it is dry.

I tried to capture some of the webs during morning hours when first sunshine falls on earth. Interestingly dew drops were fallen on such web, which inspired me to shoot. Unfortunately, I did not find spiders in it but in one web a beautiful spider was discovered. Here are few photographs submitted to JPG story. I hope you will like it.

Ref. Zheng, Y. et al. Nature 463, 640-643 (2010)

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11 responses

  • John Linton

    John Linton gave props (7 Mar 2015):

    Hell YEAH! Rad!

  • Saroj Swain

    Saroj Swain said (7 Mar 2015):

    Thanks John for your kind nomination.....

  • Donna Mullins

    Donna Mullins (Deleted) said (7 Mar 2015):

    Voted YES for story of the week. Good Luck Saroj!

  • Sonia Adam Murray

    Sonia Adam Murray gave props (8 Mar 2015):

    Beautiful work and essay, I voted! A definitely fabulous story of the week!

  • Saroj Swain

    Saroj Swain said (8 Mar 2015):

    thank you

  • Andrea Petersen

    Andrea Petersen gave props (8 Mar 2015):

    Excellent photo essay with a great collection of images..Got my votes.

  • Heather Mellon

    Heather Mellon gave props (8 Mar 2015):

    So well photographed and written.. a beautiful project! Voted.

  • Nancy Richard

    Nancy Richard said (9 Mar 2015):

    This one sure is a "winner". The pictures are exceptional. Voted.


    ROCIO GUILLEN gave props (9 Mar 2015):


  • Saroj Swain

    Saroj Swain gave props (10 Mar 2015):

    thank you every u all

  • Andrea Petersen

    Andrea Petersen said (13 Mar 2015):

    Returned to nominate this excellent photo essay...

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