Spider DNA spurs search into arachnid secrets

May 6, 2014
The social velvet spider, Stegodyphus mimosarum, pictured during group feeding. Credit: Virginia Settepani

Scientists on Tuesday published the first spider genome, helping the quest to uncover secrets which could lead to smarter insecticides and man-made super-strong spider silk.

Bio-researchers led by Trine Bilde at Denmark's Aarhus University unravelled the DNA sequence of the tarantula and the African social velvet , each representing the two main groups of spiders.

The tarantula—which is infamous despite having a bite that is only as painful as a bee sting—is a so-called mygalomorph, meaning a ground-dwelling spider that lurks in wait for its prey.

The social velvet spider is an araneomorph, part of a group of spiders that have diversified to exploit a wide range of habitats above ground, where they live in communities and weave sophisticated webs to snare flying insects.

Spiders are a source of fascination for biologists, as they combine survival skills with great efficiency.

At a minimum cost in energy, they can catch prey as much as seven times their own body weight.

Chemists, though, see spiders somewhat differently.

They hope to replicate , a complex protein many times stronger than steel or kevlar, and to use neurotoxins in , which kill specific insects, as the basis for greener, more selective pesticides.

The social velvet spider, Stegodyphus mimosarum, pictured during group feeding. Credit: Peter Gammelby

The genomes, published in the journal Nature Communications, offer the fullest picture yet of the genes that are involved in these coveted processes, said researcher Jesper Bechsgaard.

"For the venom proteins, we provide more diversity that potentially could be used for specific targets," he said.

A male (left) and female (right) Stegodyphus mimosarum. Credit: Virginia Settepani

"For the silk proteins, we provide many complete sequences of different silk types that potentially could be helpful for others that do research on expressing silk in, for example, bacterial cells."

Explore further: New partnership looks to industrialize spider silk production

More information: Paper: dx.doi.org/10.1038/ncomms4765

Related Stories

New partnership looks to industrialize spider silk production

September 15, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- For thousands of years, human beings have looked with envy upon the silk webs spun by spiders; not only are they stronger than steel but they are tougher too (a vest made of spider web material can stop bullets ...

Silkworms spinning spider webs

January 3, 2012

(PhysOrg.com) -- A spiders silk is strong and more elastic and has a large range of possible medical applications. However, spiders have a history of being territorial and prone to cannibalism, so the idea of having a large ...

Synthetic spider silk strong enough for a superhero

March 5, 2014

Spider silk of fantastical, superhero strength is finally speeding toward commercial reality—at least a synthetic version of it is. The material, which is five times stronger than steel, could be used in products from bulletproof ...

Jiggy Mazda and the spiders from cars

May 1, 2014

Recently, the car manufacturer Mazda recalled 40,000 cars because of a "spider invasion". This is not the first time it has happened with Mazda cars. In 2011, a similar reason was given for recalling 52,000 cars.

Recommended for you

Genomes uncover life's early history

August 24, 2015

A University of Manchester scientist is part of a team which has carried out one of the biggest ever analyses of genomes on life of all forms.

Rare nautilus sighted for the first time in three decades

August 25, 2015

In early August, biologist Peter Ward returned from the South Pacific with news that he encountered an old friend, one he hadn't seen in over three decades. The University of Washington professor had seen what he considers ...

Study shows female frogs susceptible to 'decoy effect'

August 28, 2015

(Phys.org)—A pair of researchers has found that female túngaras, frogs that live in parts of Mexico and Central and South America, appear to be susceptible to the "decoy effect." In their paper published in the journal ...

Why a mutant rice called Big Grain1 yields such big grains

August 24, 2015

(Phys.org)—Rice is one of the most important staple crops grown by humans—very possibly the most important in history. With 4.3 billion inhabitants, Asia is home to 60 percent of the world's population, so it's unsurprising ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.