Silk physico-chemical variability and mechanical robustness facilitates intercontinental invasibility of a spider.

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Sci Rep, 2019, 9, (1), pp. 13273
Issue Date:
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There are substantive problems associated with invasive species, including threats to endemic organisms and biodiversity. Understanding the mechanisms driving invasions is thus critical. Variable extended phenotypes may enable animals to invade into novel environments. We explored here the proposition that silk variability is a facilitator of invasive success for the highly invasive Australian house spider, Badumna longinqua. We compared the physico-chemical and mechanical properties and underlying gene expressions of its major ampullate (MA) silk between a native Sydney population and an invasive counterpart from Montevideo, Uruguay. We found that while differential gene expressions might explain the differences in silk amino acid compositions and protein nanostructures, we did not find any significant differences in silk mechanical properties across the populations. Our results accordingly suggest that B. longinqua's silk remains functionally robust despite underlying physico-chemical and genetic variability as the spider expands its range across continents. They also imply that a combination of silk physico-chemical plasticity combined with mechanical robustness might contribute more broadly to spider invasibilities.
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