Skip to contentSkip to site navigation
Biology
2021 Project Proposal

Spiders v. Moths: Glue Mediates Interactions Between Predator and Prey

Candido Diaz and John Long (Biology)

Project Type - B - Flexible:  It will be in-person if we are allowed to have URSI students on campus, but it will become a remote project if not.

The webs of orb-weaving spiders are evolved to catch prey. A spider spins a web by combining five silks, some in the form of threads and others as a sticky adhesive. The sticky adhesive silk — microscopic glue droplets placed on capture threads  — is the focus of our research. The versatile properties of this glue make spiders good predators of flying insects, except for one type:  moths.  When moths hit webs, they don’t stick: they shed sacrificial scales that coat their wings and body. This defense has been outflanked by one taxon of spiders that produce a special glue. To study the behavior of this glue as it interacts with the scales of moths, we use a variety of techniques: high-speed micro-videography, adhesive tests, RAMAN spectroscopy, and microfluidic modeling. We seek students with an interest in long-term research training as a Spider Fellow.  Spider Fellows join the laboratory for two years, starting as apprentices and then becoming mentors to incoming apprentices. Preference will be given to rising sophomores/juniors (Classes of ’24/’23) for the three apprentice positions and to rising junior/seniors (Classes of ’23/’22) for the mentor position. This research is funded by the National Science Foundation.

Prerequisites: None

How should students express interest in this project?  The student should joint email Candido Diaz, cdiaz@vassar.edu, and John Long jolong@vassar.edu for an interview.

This is an 8-week project running from June 7 – July 31