science biology structural_analysis architecture fang claw evolution spider arachnid physics

Spider Fang Study Reveals Architecture of Perfect Puncture
The picture above is a model of the mechanical load a spider’s fang must endure. Scientists in Germany and Austria have been busy studying the wandering spider’s natural syringe to better understand how similar sharp structures like stingers, claws and teeth are built.
They were interested in the fang because it must last for more than a year of the arachnid’s life and through multiple attacks on prey. While hunting, it must pierce through the tough exoskeletal cuticle of its victim to inject a potent neurotoxic venom. 
Their research looking at different structural scales to understand the fang’s mechanical properties concluded that “both the anatomical shape of the naturally evolved fang and its material-level architecture result in highly adapted effective structural stiffness and damage resilience.”[[MORE]]
At the microscopic scale, a fang’s stiffness and resilience comes from a composite of tough nanofibrils made of the polysaccharide chitin and a more pliable matrix of proteins. The tip, where load forces are at the extreme (as seen in the model above), is hardened by metal ions that are woven into the matrix.
"According to our results, the fang architecture is well adapted with a close-to-optimal mechanical stiffness, as defined by the simplified fang-like model and refined damage resilience," the authors write. "On the macroscopic scale, the curved fang structure enables the spider to attack from different directions and to hold its prey like a claw.

(A female wandering spider, the species whose fang was studied in this research. Photo courtesy of Bastian Rast. CC)
Thanks to the architecture and composition, they say that localized damage would only be expected to occur at the fang’s tip.
The research was conducted by scientists at the University of Vienna and the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces. It was published online today in the journal Nature Communications. 
Top Image: Finite-element simulation results of the natural spider fang, based on µCT reconstruction, indicating of a tip-localization stress distribution. Courtesy Bar-On et al.

Spider Fang Study Reveals Architecture of Perfect Puncture

The picture above is a model of the mechanical load a spider’s fang must endure. Scientists in Germany and Austria have been busy studying the wandering spider’s natural syringe to better understand how similar sharp structures like stingers, claws and teeth are built.

They were interested in the fang because it must last for more than a year of the arachnid’s life and through multiple attacks on prey. While hunting, it must pierce through the tough exoskeletal cuticle of its victim to inject a potent neurotoxic venom. 

Their research looking at different structural scales to understand the fang’s mechanical properties concluded that “both the anatomical shape of the naturally evolved fang and its material-level architecture result in highly adapted effective structural stiffness and damage resilience.”

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science venom chemistry biochemistry toxins evolution biology medicine health life_and_nature
Venom’s Pharmacy: Toxins’ Upside Means Advanced Medicines

by Michael Keller

Could it be that venom is just what we need to heal what ails us?

With the still unfolding news of 1,600 injuries and 42 deaths inflicted so far in China by the Asian giant hornet’s sting, it might seem ridiculous to suggest that there’s an upside to the dangerous cocktail of toxins injected by thousands of creatures around the world.

Yet just when the bad news about the hornets’ deadly collision with humanity broke, another announcement emerged from the scientific community. Chinese and Australian researchers reported in the journal Nature that they had found a compound in the Chinese red-headed centipede’s venom that is a more potent painkiller than morphine and carries no addiction risk. 

Such a discovery might appear to be an anomaly, an accidental kindness from the debilitating and sometimes lethal world of animal poisons. But those engaged in the burgeoning field of venom-based therapeutics development called venomics say that it’s no accident. 

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science history computer_modeling evolutionary_biology war society culture evolution
Science Predicts History: Model Shows Evolution Of Ancient Societies

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by Ysabel Yates

War was the main driving force in the evolution of ancient societies, a controversial new study finds.

The study used a computer model to predict the time and place of ancient empires’ origins. Researchers found that incorporating the spread of military technologies resulted in a model that was 65 percent accurate in explaining how these societies evolved and spread. An alternative model that omitted such technologies was only 16 percent accurate.

"Before we went through this exercise we did not know whether competition between societies, taking the form of warfare, was really an important driver in the evolution of large complex societies," says Peter Turchin, lead author of the study. "Now we know that it is the main factor, with the presence of agriculture as a necessary condition, and various environmental effects also playing a role."

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tech science fossils paleontology x_ray biology archaeopteryx evolution animals
X-Rays of Iconic Fossil’s Feathers Reveal Color Patterns

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by Michael Keller

Scientists have discovered amazing details about a very old fossil using a very modern tool. 

Firing an X-ray beam from the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource (SSRL), a team of paleontologists and physicists have scanned the fossilized feathers of extinct Late Jurassic animals that represent the earliest divergence of birds from reptiles.

They found traces of pigment in the 150 million-year-old feathers that prove the creatures, called Archaeopteryx lithographica, sported light feathers with dark edges and tips. Their work backs up previous research on Archaeopteyx feather pigmentation and patterning, which leads scientists to believe that the color compounds strengthened them against the wear and tear of flight.

Click through for a video on the research using the SSRL.

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