The Golden Orb Weaver Spider

Spider in a web We have discussed the design of spider webs previously in this column, but new discoveries about things that happen in nature come out on a regular basis, and some of them are so incredible that they are hard to believe. The complexity of the web production of the golden orb weaver is so incredible that to attempt to explain it by chance borders on irrationality.

Recent studies of this spider have revealed that the spider has six glands that produce six different protein solutions. As the solutions are secreted, they are used to produce six different kinds of silk. One kind of silk is used by the spider solely for the wrapping of eggs. The web is elastic enough to handle all the things the eggs do, yet it is able to be eaten or breaks down quickly after use so as not to impair or restrict the baby spiders. A second kind of silk made of a different protein is used to secure prey once the prey is caught. This web material has very little elasticity, so the prey cannot get outside help or brace itself in another structure to put undue force on the restraining web. Three of the silk materials are used to actually build the spider's web. These have different elasticities for different situations--lots of stretch for big areas where large prey might be caught and would get away if not given a chance to thrash and wear itself out. Smaller elasticities for use in smaller areas where escape might happen if the animal could pull far away from the web location. All of these web materials are very strong and somewhat sticky to the touch.

a spider web The sixth protein is called "dragline silk." This material is used by the spider to hang with. When you see a spider hanging outside of its web on a piece of silk, the materials are being used in a different way than normal web material. In the case of the golden orb weaver, the dragline silk is used to suspend the spider. The strength of this material is incredible. It is five times as strong as the kevlar that is currently used in bullet proof vests. It is as elastic as nylon. A piece the size of a pencil could stop the momentum of a fighter jet stopping on an aircraft carrier. Scientists are still struggling to understand the chemistry of this amazing material that is elastic, non-sticky, and incredibly strong.

An atheist is forced by his faith to maintain that the development of these six glands and the chemistry that their secretions produce is totally a matter of chance. We could suggest that such a position defies the knowledge that man has about chemical materials, their storage, and the combination and recycling abilities. God has built an incredible design system into the spider to give it the ability to live and help control the insect population of the earth. Spiders may not be our favorite animal, but they are incredibly designed living things that speaks eloquently of their creator.

--Reference: Smithsonian, July 2002, pages 78-84.

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