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Spiders' Webs Hide Significant DNA Traces

The research was conduct on black widow spider webs

(Mirror Daily, United States) – What we find to be bothersome in our house could be valuable information for scientists, as it was found spiders’ webs hide significant DNA traces that belongs both to themselves and their prey. It could mean a potential breakthrough for environmentalists, but also services that handle pest control.

A team of researchers, led by Charles C.Y. Xu, from the Erasmus Mundus Master Programme have found an exciting new way of tracking down spiders, along with information about their prey. Until now, methods included actually trapping the arachnids through various means, such as physically shaking them out of trees, or vacuuming them up in special tubes for research. This way, they could tell what sort of spiders live where, and what is their food pallet.

However, the scientists found that all of that could be done without the actual spiders. Instead, DNA traces of both the arachnids and the insects that became their prey is found within their cobwebs. The silky, sticky homes that spiders make for themselves are markers of what they are and what they eat. By analyzing the DNA within them, it would tell researchers all they need to know.

This is direct result of the fact that genetic sequencing is no longer an expensive method of gathering information.

For the purpose of the study, researchers took three Southern black widow spiders (Latrodectus mactans) and fed them house crickets (Acheta domesticus). After several days, they took the webs and extracted DNA from them. In order to detect the species and their diets, they amplified the mitochondrial gene called cytochrome oxidase 1. It’s commonly used for “DNA barcoding”, and it’s a standardized manner in finding the type of species an organism belongs to.

Their somewhat easier task was that they knew exactly what type of DNA to look for. It allowed for the creation of primers. However, Xu stated that with the right modifications, they could extra DNA traces from cobwebs even without the researchers knowing the species of spider, or even seeing it beforehand. This “next-generation barcoding” could potentially provide exceptional help to numerous fields regarding the arachnids.

These spider lairs could be used as the perfect markers on what types of spider species live within a specific area, along with what sort of insects fall into their traps. Analyzing spider ecosystems will become easier, as well as their spreading throughout various geographical locations. And all of this without actually needing to see the spider.

Pest control services could know precisely what kind of species they’re dealing with, especially those who create cobwebs hide in food crates or invade homes. The DNA traces stick around for 88 days in the silky webs, so there is plenty of time to collect them.

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