July 5, 2011

Web Weaving Skills Provide Clues To Aging

Young house spiders weave webs with perfect angles and regular patterns, but as they reach old age their webs deteriorate, showing gaping holes and erratic weaving.

By using spiders as a simple model this research may provide insight into how age affects behavior in other organisms, including humans.

The reason web building skills are lost as spiders grow older may be due to degeneration of the central nervous system. PhD researcher, Mylne Anotaux, from Nancy University in France, says "Our next steps will be to understand whether age-induced changes in the central nervous system are behind the differences in behavior we have found."

"Because of the importance of understanding the underlying behavioral mechanisms of ageing in humans, investigating simple animal models that assess ageing mechanisms is essential," says Miss Anotaux.

This research, which was presented at the Society for Experimental Biology Annual Conference in Glasgow on Saturday 2nd of July, used a common European house spider Zygiella x-notata, its short life span (around 12 months) and simple nervous system making it an ideal organism to shed light on the complexities of how aging can affect behavior.

The webs of the spiders were assessed throughout their lifetime using measures such as the regularity of web structure, angles between the strands and whether there were any holes.


Image Caption: This web was woven by a 17-day-old spider, showing regular patterns. Credit: Mylne Anotaux


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