- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
"Most people are unaware of the glue on a spider's web because you can't see the droplets with your naked eye, but it's a really important feature of the web that spiders rely on to capture prey," says postdoctoral researcher and spider glue expert Sarah Stellwagen of the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) lab of Mercedes Burns.
Stellwagen, who will speak at the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology seminar on Wednesday, April 24, says that spider glue "is also a modified silk protein, but has lost its fibrous characteristics that we think of when we hear the word silk. Currently, there are only around 20 full-length silk genes known--but many many partial sequences--because these genes are really hard to sequence due to their size and repetitiveness."
Her seminar, titled "Towards Spider Glue: From Material Properties to Sequencing the Longest Silk Family Gene," is at 4:10 p.m. in Room 122 of Briggs Hall, off Kleiber Hall Drive. Hosts are Hanna Kahl, UC Davis doctoral student in entomology, and Jason Bond, the Evert and Marion Schlinger Endowed Chair in Insect Systematics, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
Stellwagen and colleague Rebecca Rensberg sequenced the genes that encode for the spider glue protein. Their work appears in the April edition of the journal G3-Genes Genomes Genetics. (See her website, http://www.spiderglues.com)
Of her UC Davis seminar, Stellwagen said: "I'll be talking about the biomechanics of spider glue--how droplets of glue on a spiders web stretch, and how environmental variables like humidity, temperature, and ultraviolet light affect that stretch. I'll also be talking about the molecular biology of the glue--discovering the DNA sequences that code for main proteins that make up the glue, and how that sequence relates to the mechanical properties." (See It's All About the Glue.)
She delivered oral presentations on "Towards Spider Glue:Sequencing the Longest Known Silk Family Gene" at the 2019 International Congress of of Arachnology, Christchurch, New Zealand, and the 2018 American Arachnological Society Annual Meeting in Ypsilanti, Mich.
Stellwagen received her doctorate in biological sciences in July of 2015 from Virginia Tech. Her dissertation: "Structure and Function of the Viscous Capture Spiral and its Relationship to the Architecture of Spider Orb Webs." She completed her master's degree thesis, from Clemson University, on "Spider (Aranea) Diversity, Habitat Distributions and Pitfall Trapping in Kings Mountain National Military Park, South Carolina."
The UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology seminars, coordinated by medical entomologist/assistant professor Geoffrey Attardo, take place at 4:10 p.m. every Wednesday in Room 122 of Briggs Hall, through June 5. (See list of seminars)