When I was about five years old, I had a pet spider. Well, really what I had was a tiny house spider trapped under a pen cap on my bookshelf. I was livid when my mom moved the cap while dusting, allowing my “pet” to crawl to freedom.
Decades later, I understand that no spider will ever be happy in captivity. Creepy though these eight-legged organisms may be, they play an essential role in the ecosystem. Although I may never be thrilled to see one crawling up my arm (shudder) I’m glad spiders exist: they help control pests, produce venom that’s being studied as a potential medicine and pesticide, and hide an amazing materials laboratory inside their bodies.
It’s this last characteristic that recently thrust spiders into the scientific spotlight. As you may know, spiders are capable of emitting silken threads from their abdomen. For the spider, this silk is simply used for web building, but it could also help us humans develop life-changing materials for the future.
Hailed as the super material of the future, spider silk is more than five times stronger than steel, ten times stronger than Kevlar, more elastic than a rubber band and yet can be found in some of our own backyards. In the future, this amazing fiber could be used to make bulletproof clothing, protective airbags, and artificial skin for burn victims.
Scroll through the infographic below to learn more!
Infographic by Sierra Cases