Sunday, February 6, 2011

A spider chooses to spin her web.

Intrigued by anonymous’s comment, I went researching. 
As proposed:  Spiders choose to spin a web.
But why?  Well, every species (including homo sapiens) are coded with a genetic propensity towards survival.  There is a collective drive and an individual drive.  The collective, for example, creates the phenomenon of “society” or “community.”  Humans have learned over the years that survival is much easier when we do not have to generate every resources necessary to survival.  I did not grow all that is in my refrigerator and I did not build the house I live in.  I trade for what I need with the resources that my life (and life choices) produce.  On the other hand, the individual drive to survive causes circumstances such as inter/intra-communal violence and aggression.  Our instinct to push our DNA into the future generations holds such force that species are willing to take offensive action for the protection of this intrinsic impulsion.
With such germane tendencies, species learn to adapt to their environment in order to assure survival.  Over multiple generations, the benefactors of preferred genetic mutations pass on their adaptations to their offspring.  Those that posses the genetic “upper hand” are more likely to survive, thus more likely to procreate.  Thus, the process of evolution has allowed for each species to develop a “tool kit” of genomic and phenomic capabilities that increase the opportunity of progeny.  The human thinks.  The eagle flies.  And the the spider spins its web.  
To return to the proposed choice of a spider and her web, a little data on the process of webbing draws a few potential parallels.   Firstly, The spider spins a web to catch food--naive insects who tangle in the sticky web.  The thread of the spider’s web is quite the evolution--its strength, elasticity and gummy properties, if reproduced by humans with a girth of 3 cm, could stop a Boieng 747 mid-flight.  The production of this thread takes place in several glands on the upper abdomen.  Each gland produces a thread for a special purpose. There are seven different known glands. Of note, each spider possesses only some of these glands and not all seven together.
To spin her web, normally a spider has three pairs of spinners.  Although, some spiders have just one pair and others, as many as four. Just as each gland serves a special purpose, each spinner has it own function. Within the spinners, there are small tubes connected to the glands. The number of tubes can vary between 2 and 50.000.
And, how is this web constructed?  The most difficult part is the construction of the first thread--a sturdy horizontal thread on which the rest of the web hangs. But how does the spider connect this thread between the two connecting points? She can not fly. Does she connect a thread at one place, walk down with an enrolling thread behind her to the other side where pulls the thread horizontal and connects it?
No, the answer is more simple. She makes use of the wind and some luck.
The wind carries a thin adhesive thread released from her spinners while making the thread longer and longer. If she is lucky the thread sticks to a proper spot. Then she walks carefully over the thread, strengthening it with a second thread. This is repeated until the primary thread is strong enough.  Spinning a web takes a lot of time and energy.  The process almost completely drains the spider, so once complete, she must sit and wait for her meal.  She has done her work--hopefully chosen a prudent location, spun her web with care and attention, and courageously utilized her resources to work for her survival.  
I am aware that courage and fear are concepts which a spider simply could not understand, but there is no denying that the spider experiences something like emotions--fear, specifically.  When in danger, spiders may bite or spin a web or run away.  They will use their bodies’ physique and genetic make-up to escape danger.  Human, however, may be more complex in some ways and perhaps less complex in others.  When humans are “in danger,” or are struggling with emotions perhaps unattainable to a spider, we have no way to spin a web from a silky thread, or bite with poison to numb our adversary, but we do have other tools--our brains being the most significant.  
I have not dealt with so many aspects of the spider and her web, and perhaps I will revisit this topic at another time.  But for now, the most salient parallel I see between the choice of a spider and human sovereignty over fate, is that we are both coded to survive, and there are an incalculable number of factors that threaten this intention in both environments. Yet, we also both have a very unique set of tools.  We don’t just disappear or become invisible when threatened, but we can choose to use our instincts, spin the appropriate thread, take the first leap, wish for luck and a good wind, get to work spinning, and then learn patience as we await the results of our labor.  
Thanks for the comment, Anonymous.  You made me think.  I am blessed.  

No comments:

Post a Comment