Silk-based vibration transmission and behavior in web-building spiders

Dr. Todd Blackledge and Alissa Coonfield


Modeling the transmission of transverse vibrational waves through an orb web. (Credit: A. Soler 2016)

Web-building spiders perceive their surroundings primarily through vibrational cues. Based on the characteristics of these cues, the spider can determine the location and source of the vibrations—predators, environmental threats, prey, or mates—and react accordingly. In order for spider to perceive these cues, however, the vibrations must travel quickly and effectively through the silken snares they construct.

Banded garden spider Argiope trifasciata in the hub of her web (A. Coonfield)

I am studying the transmission of vibrational information in spiderwebs. In my research, I aim to explore how vibrations are effectively transmitted through different silks and web architectures. Further, I want to know how vibrations with different characteristics elicit different behaviors in spiders. We can then explore how the spider’s behavior may influence perception of different stimuli and better understand the interplay of behavior, perception, and the material properties of spiderwebs.

Benefits of working on this project:

  • Hands-on experience with both lab- and field-based experimentation
  • Introduction to high-speed videography and vibration-monitoring techniques
  • Become well-versed in spider behavior, perception, and web structure
  • Develop an understanding of the physics of sound
  • Apply statistical analyses to biological data
  • Potential for presentation in professional setting and/or publication

Click here for more information about Dr. Blackledge’s research.