Complexity and emergent properties in the spider’s webs and silks

Spider webs are superb examples of functional structures that emerge as the animal builds her web. A highly geometrical thread assembly is constructed step-by-step integrating highly evolved behaviour patterns with silk materials produced on demand. The building behaviour relies on repetitive sequences of movements and manipulations while the silks have mechanical properties that are tuned to the required properties by in-line tweaking of the biochemistry during spinning. Thus the spider’s web and its silks embody complexity on many levels relying on the interaction of long sequences of very simple behaviour action motives that manage the judicious use of threads which themselves rely on the interaction of long sequences of molecular motives. The overall structure emerges as its component materials solidify i.e. as the overall combination of geometry and structure arises and sets.

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Project leader(s):
  • Fritz Vollrath (Oxford)

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