Filching

April 4, 2011

Tags: silk, hummingbirds

If you're not already one of the two-million-plus viewers of Hummingbird Cam, check it out soon to catch the current chicks before they fly the nest. Don't fret if you miss them, because the mother will soon lay another clutch of two eggs if she sticks to her pattern of previous years.

But whether the nest is full or empty, take a close look at it. The mother hummingbird has bound all her building materials together with spider silk. Spider silk offers this mother the perfect combination of strength and flexibility: the nest actually stretches with the growth of the chicks.

Hummingbirds aren't the only birds to use spider silk in nest building. I haven't been able to find any research on whether birds are picky about the kinds of spider webs they choose to filch. Do they prefer araneoid webs, with their super-stretchy flagelliform catching lines and aggregate protein glue? Or non-araneoid araneomorph webs, with their dry cribellate catching silk? Do different birds prefer different kinds of silk? If you know of any research pointing to answers, please let me know.




Tags

"...a compelling introduction to evolution in action through the lens of spiders and their silks."

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