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Shape memory in spider draglines

Naturevolume 440page621 (2006) | Download Citation


The torsional properties of spider silk add to its list of remarkable physical credentials.


The ductility and strength of spider draglines means that they outperform the best synthetic fibres1,2,3,4,5, but surprisingly little is known about the torsional properties of this remarkable filament. Unlike a mountain climber swinging from a rope, a spider suspended from its silk thread hardly ever twists. Here we show that a spider dragline has a torsional shape ‘memory’ in that it can reversibly and totally recover its initial form without any external stimulus; its observed relaxation dynamics indicate that these biological molecules have successively different torsional constants.

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Author information


  1. Laboratoire de Physique des Lasers, UMR CNRS 6627, Université de Rennes 1, Rennes, 35042, France

    • Olivier Emile
    •  & Albert Le Floch
  2. Department of Zoology, South Parks Road, Oxford, OX1 3PS, UK

    • Fritz Vollrath


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Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Olivier Emile.

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