Untangling spider biology

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Science  20 Oct 2017:
Vol. 358, Issue 6361, pp. 288-291
DOI: 10.1126/science.358.6361.288

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For a display of nature's diabolical inventiveness, it's hard to beat spiders. Thanks to their silks and venoms, these arachnids have come up with creative ways of capturing their prey, from nets they cast to trapdoors. The silks and venoms vary significantly from species to species. Lately, studies of genes and proteins are opening a new era of spider biology. Researchers have sequenced full genomes of three species—the golden orb weaver, the African social velvet spider, and the common house spider—and done more limited genetic and protein studies on many others. The analyses are highlighting the tangled paths of spider evolution, bringing into focus the complexities of spider silk and venom, and providing molecular-based ways to study these animals' behaviors.