Proteins are organic macromolecules, which comprise the building blocks of life. Composed of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen and sometimes sulphur, 20 amino acids function as the monomers that are polymerized to make polypeptides, which are linked together to make proteins. Proteins are found in all organisms, and even in viruses and prions (neither classified as living things). Proteins carry out many essential functions. They make up tissue, organs, and muscle of animals (up to 15% of their mass). The endless variety of protein structures allow for a diverse array of functionality, including enzymes and hormones, and serves as part of the structure of everything from DNA to bones. Spider silk is composed of complex protein molecules. Many species of spider have different glands to produce silk for different jobs, such as housing and web construction, defense, capturing and detaining prey, or mobility. Therefore, different specialized silks have evolved with material properties optimized for their use. For example, Argiope argentata has five different types of silk, each for a different purpose.
  • dragline silk: used for the web's outer rim and spokes
  • capture spiral silk: used for the capturing lines of the web
  • tubiliform: used for protecting egg sacs
  • aciniform silk: used to wrap and secure freshly captured prey
  • minor ampullate silk: used for temporary scaffolding during web construction
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Nephila spider web