The Miracle of Silk
Spiders' thread is five times stronger
than steel of the same thickness, and can stretch to four times
its own length.
Everybody knows that spiders use silky threads produced
from their own bodies in order to spin webs.
But the stages of production of the thread and its general
features are not so well known. The thread produced by spiders,
of a diameter less than one thousandth of a millimetre, is five
times stronger than a steel thread of the same dimensions. It can,
moreover, stretch to four times its own length. Another striking
feature of the silk is that it is very light. We can demonstrate
this with an example. A silk thread stretching around the whole
world would only weigh 320 grams.20
Your god is God alone, there
is no other deity than Him. He encompasses all things in His
(Surah Ta Ha: 98)
It will be worth having another look at the above
technical details. We cannot just gloss over the fact that the silk
is five times stronger than steel. Because steel, known for being
one of the strongest materials in the world, is an alloy produced
in large factories in a series of processes. Spiders' silk, however,
five times stronger than steel, is not produced in large factories:
it is made by an arachnid. Just about any spider we can see anywhere
can produce it. Steel is a heavy material, for which reason it is
difficult to use. It is produced in large furnaces at high temperatures
and is prepared for use by cooling in moulds. In contrast, spiders'
thread is very light. It is produced in the spiders' own small bodies,
not in giant furnaces and moulds.
Another miraculous aspect of
spider thread is that it is very elastic. It is very difficult to
find a material both strong and elastic. For example, steel cables
are one of the strongest materials around. But because they are
not elastic like rubber, they slowly lose their shape. And although
rubber cables do not lose their shape, they are not strong enough
to lift heavy weights. On the other hand, as has been described
above, spider silk is five times stronger than steel wire of the
same thickness, and 30 percent more elastic than rubber of the same
thickness.21 To put it in technical
terms, spider thread, from the point of view of its resistance to
breaking and the extent it can stretch before breaking, is a material
the like of which does not exist.
The research into spiders carried out over the
last few decades, and the information resulting from it, has brought
with it several questions. For example, if mankind makes steel and
rubber cables as a result of the knowledge gathered over hundreds
of years, then with what knowledge is spider thread, which is so
superior, made? How is it that mankind cannot fully grasp the formula
and put it into operation? What is it that makes spider silk so
superior? The answer is hidden in the construction of the silk.
Research by international chemical manufacturing companies has only
partially determined the make-up of spider thread.
The Make-up of Silk
The "wolf spider" prepares a matchless cocoon for its eggs.
The hard exterior of the cocoon protects the eggs from external
dangers. The inside, padded with silk, provides maximum comfort.
The spider inserts the eggs through a hole in the top of the
sack. (Top) Then it closes up the hole and the eggs enjoy
perfect armoured protection. One species in Oklahoma makes
a padded nest for itself. It finds a leaf and carries it in
its mouth. It folds the leaf up and joins the edges with a
special silk. (Side) To guarantee the comfort of the nest,
it lines the inner walls with silk.
The silk spiders make is much stronger than any
known fibres, natural or synthetic. When scientists realised this
they began experimenting to understand in what way spiders make
it. The first ones thought this would be as simple as getting silk
from silkworms, but later it dawned on them they were wrong.
Evolutionary zoologist Fritz
Vollrath, of Aarhus University in Denmark, realised, as a result
of his research, that it would not be possible to make it by taking
it directly from spiders. This being the case, scientists then came
up with the idea of "the production of artificial spider silk"
as an alternative. But, before that, it was necessary for the researchers
to find out how the spider produces the silk. This took quite a
few years. The zoologist Vollrath discovered an important part of
the method in his later work. The spiders' method is remarkably
similar to the process used to manufacture industrial fibers such
as nylon: spiders harden their silk by acidifying it. Vollrath concentrated
his work on the garden cross spider known as Araneus diadematus
and examined a duct through which the silk flows before exiting.
Before entering the duct, the silk consists of liquid proteins.
In the duct, specialized cells draw water away from the silk proteins.
Hydrogen atoms taken from the water are pumped into another part
of the duct, creating an acid bath. When the silk proteins make
contact with the acid, they fold and form bridges with one another,
hardening the silk.22 But of course the formation of the silk is not
as simple as described here. For silk to emerge, other materials
and sacs of various properties are needed.
Ptocasius is a species of spider which
joins two leaves together to make its nest. It uses its silk
as glue to join the leaves together. This nest enables it
to hide at night and when hunting.
The raw material of spider silk is "keratin,"
a protein that appears as braided, helical strands of amino acid
chains. This material is also found in hair, horn and feathers.
The spider obtains all the raw materials for its silk from a synthesis
of the amino acids it secures by digesting its prey. Spiders also
eat and digest their own webs, thus producing inside their own bodies
the material for further web production.
There is an area at the base of the spider's
abdomen where the silk glands are found. Each gland produces different
elements. Different types of silk threads are produced from different
combinations of the elements from these glands. There is a great
conformity between the glands. During the silk production process,
specially well-developed pumps and pressure systems within the spider's
body are used. The raw silk produced is thrown out in the form of
fibres by spinnerets (nozzles) which function like taps. The spider
can alter the spray pressure within these spinnerets as it wishes.
This is an especially important feature. Because in this way the
make-up of the molecules which form the raw keratin is changed.
By the use of the control mechanism in the valves the diameter,
resistance and elasticity of the thread can be altered while it
is being produced. Thus the thread can take on the desired physical
characteristics without the need for a change in its chemical composition.
If any greater change to the thread is desired, another gland has
to come into operation. The resulting tiny silk threads with their
many features are then set in the desired way by expert use of the
is enough to examine their silk glands to realise that spiders
could not have emerged by coincidence. This picture shows
the glands on the Madagascar spider's (Nephila Madagascariensis)
right side. There are glands on the left side as well. Silk
glands 1 and 2 produce the dry silk the spider holds on to
when walking on its web, or when climbing up and down. The
viscid silk is produced in another gland (3). This basic silk
is coated by the adhesive (sticky) glands (4 and 5). The 6th
gland produces the adhesive necessary for sticking the silk
to another surface. The 7th gland produces the raw material
for a special thin silk used to wrap the prey up after it
is caught. The 8th gland produces the silk for the cocoon.
9, 10, and 11 show the back, central, and front spinnerets
(silk nozzles). Spiders make their silk by means of this peerless
system. It is clear that this system, with its different structures
and functions, could not have come about by coincidences.
Spiders were created together with this system by the Almighty
The ratios in which the products of six different
glands are mixed are of the utmost importance. For example, when
the sticky thread is being produced, if that material which gives
the sticky quality is not used in sufficient quantities, it will
lose the ability to catch insects. If it is used in too great quantities,
the usability of the web will be reduced. For the thread to serve
its purpose, the products of the other glands must necessarily be
applied at the right level.
The result of these processes
being successfully completed is spider silk, with its properties,
all different from each other, and able to serve different functions.
Spider silk is so strong that Vollrath, the zoologist, describes
it in these words: "Spider silk is stronger and more elastic
than Kevlar, and Kevlar is the strongest man-made fiber."23
And these are not the only special qualities
of spider silks. Unlike Kevlar, a kind of plastic used in the production
of bullet-proof jackets because of its strength, spider silk can
be recycled and used again and again.
| THREADS UNDER
The picture above shows the capturing thread of an
ecribellate spider, such as A. diadematus, magnified
100 times. The aqueous coat which gives the thread its
sticky quality is seen here as minute droplets. In the
second picture, magnified 300 times, are seen rolled
threads like cable balls. Surface tension within each
drop causes core fibers to bunch up, creating a windlass
system, shown in its contracted state. Under pressure
the system relaxes and the thread can stretch to a great
|As will be seen from the 200 times magnified picture
below, this dry thread (cribellate spider thread) is
formed by the coming together of hundreds of micro dry
threads. These silks are already sticky without being
coated in any liquid. The stickiness comes about thanks
to the combing operation the spider employs when spinning
its silk. This operation, done through a fine comb located
on the shin of the hind leg, enlarges the threads. This
swelling up can be seen only under 1000 time magnification
and the elecrostatic effect created gives the thread
its trapping quality. It is not possible for these flawless
properties to have come about as the result of coincidences,
as the evolutionists claim. God created the spider,
together with this wonderful system.
Every spider produces silks with different properties for
different functions. The spider known as A. diadematus can
switch between silks with varied amino acid compositions.
spider uses abdominal glands and spigots to produce seven
kinds of silk. These threads, stronger than steel and more
elastic than rubber, made of one of the most perfect materials
in the world, are produced in the spider's body. This is
God's art. God is He Who created everything and Who is Aware
of all creation.
1.FLAGELLIFORM GLANCE, 2. AGGREGATE GLAND, 3. CYLINDIRICAL
GLAND, 4. MINOR AMPULLATE GLAND, 5. TOUGH OUTER SILK OF
EGG SAC, 6. PIRIFORM GLAND, 7. MAJOR AMPULLATE GLAND, 8.
ACINIFORM GLAND, 9. AUXILIARY SPIRAL, 10. DRAGLINE, 11.
STRUCTURAL SILK, 12. CEMENT FOR JOINTS AND ATTACHMENTS,
13. SOFT INNER SILK OF EGG SAC, AQUEOUS COATING, 15. CORE
FIBERS OF CAPTURE SPIRAL
The most important point here is that this most
perfect product in the world, stronger than steel and more elastic
than rubber, is made in the body of the spider. Even the largest
textile factories, the most developed weaving establishments, and
chemical laboratories fully equipped with the latest technology
and researching into atoms have been unable to manufacture anything
quite like spider silk. So how did a spider plan such an incomparable
chemical make-up? After having planned it, how did it identify the
source of the raw materials necessary for production and how did
it settle on the six basic ingredients? What measuring equipment
did it use to establish the proportions between them?
There is no doubt that all of this could not
have come about by chance, as the evolutionists maintain. The spider
cannot create a new system within its own body. It is not possible
for it first to identify what it will need and then locate them
inside its own body. Such an idea is far removed from the realms
of science and logic.
It is definitely not possible for a system which
produces silks with all their different features to have come about
by itself. Such a claim is simply nonsense.
Of course God, Creator of the heavens and the
earth, also created the spider and this superb system. God it is
Who creates everything flawlessly and Who is aware of all creation.
...He has no partner in the Kingdom. He created
everything and determined it most exactly. (Surat al-Furqan: 2)
The Most Suitable Threads for Their Purpose
It is not widely known that spiders use more
than one type of thread when spinning their webs. Actually, spiders
make different threads in their bodies for different purposes. It
is obvious what an important characteristic this is when we consider
spiders' lives. For it is essential that the threads the spider
walks about on, and those it uses to catch its prey or to wrap it
up tightly, should be different from one another. For example, if
the thread which the spider walks about on were as sticky as that
which it uses when hunting its prey, then the spider would also
get stuck in it, and that would lead to its death.
Let us consider an example.
All spiders produce and use a variety of silks, but the orb-weaving
Araneid spiders appear to make the most diverse use of them, and
they produce the most familiar silken structure, the orb-web. These
spiders produce at least seven silks. These are, first, the silk
which constitutes the frame and radii of the orb-web and the dragline
upon which the spider lowers itself; and second, the viscid silk
which is used to form the catching spirals of the orb-web. In addition,
the spider produces a glue to coat the spiral silk;accessory fibres
that apparently reinforce the frame and dragline silks; cocoon silk;
a silk to wrap captured prey; and a silk to attach the frame and
dragline silks to the substrate.24
These silks, in the same way as they have different
qualities from the point of view of strength and elasticity, also
exhibit different thicknesses and levels of stickiness. For example,
although the dragline, which plays such a large part in the spider's
life, does not possess the quality of stickiness, it is nevertheless
strong and elastic. It can easily bear weights up to two or three
times the weight of the spider. It is thanks to this silk that the
spider, carrying the prey it has caught, can move safely up and
As we have seen, in order to live, the spider
needs to be able to produce different types of silk and also to
know where to use each one. For even one of these to be lacking
would mean death to the spider.
It would not be possible for a spider to survive
without possessing all of these at once. Imagine a spider which
spun perfect webs to wonderful designs but whose webs were not sticky.
This would render the spider's web completely useless. It is not
even an option for it to wait thousands of years for the process
of evolution to teach it how to make sticky webs, because without
this knowledge the spider would be dead within a few days. Or imagine
a spider which could produce all kinds of silk but was unable to
make a web. Of course the silks it made would be of no use at all
and again it would die. Even if it was able to produce all the silks,
but not the cocoon silks to protect its eggs; in that case the spider
would die out. As has been demonstrated, spiders have never had
the time to acquire all the characteristics which they possess with
the passing of time as the evolutionists claim.
Not one iota of the features which spiders possess
can have come about in stages as claimed by the theory of evolution.
From the time of the very first spider on Earth, all spiders have
had to exist in complete form. All of these facts are evidence that
spiders emerged at one time, in other words, that they were created
by God. By means of this miracle of creation in the spider, God
is showing us His limitless power and knowledge.
The Elasticity of Silk Threads
The thread shows different features, depending
on what the spider will use it for. For example, the sticky threads
are produced in different glands from the dragline and are thinner
and more elastic. In some situations they can stretch 500-600 percent.
Spiders have a pump-and-valve system that enables
them to make threads. Glandular ducts thicken the substance they
exude into a highly vicious state:a liquid crystal, in which the
molecules are organized in parallel lines. Strong shearing forces
applied to the emergent thread by an extrusion nozzle cause many
of the alpha chains to form a stable, tertiary structure, called
a beta-pleated sheet.
These protein crystals are
in turn embedded in a rubberlike matrix composed of amino acid chains
that are not linked into beta-pleated sheets. Instead these helical
strands are tangled up in a state of high entropy. It is precisely
this randomness that lends silk, like rubber, exceptional elasticity.
Stretching the thread pulls the protein strands out of disarray
- which they resist - whereas releasing the thread allows them to
contract back into blissful disorder.25
The elasticity of the sticky threads makes it
possible for flying insects to be gradually brought to a stop. In
this way the danger of the web breaking is reduced. The sticky substance
used is produced in another group of glands with different functions.
This material is so adhesive that it is impossible for insects which
get caught in the web to escape.
Spiders' Threads Are Stronger than Steel
Local people use the threads of the Golden orb web spider
for fishing, because its web is very strong. The web's golden
colour deceives bees and insects and draws them into it.
The spider's silk is a scleroprotein
which is emitted from the spinnerets as a liquid. Scleroprotein
is a type of protein that hardens into a tough elastic structure
in contact with the air. Thanks to this protein the silk is extremely
strong. So strong and resilient has spider silk proved that, on
the human scale, a web resembling a fishing net could catch a passanger
Silk's elasticity is balanced
by its strength. Because it is a composite material, like glass
fibers embedded in a resin, silk is strong. Its crystals and matrix
resist breaking. A stretched thread usually snaps because a crack
on the surface cuts into it like a wedge. Forces acting along the
fiber concentrate at the crack and cause it to rip with increasing
speed ever deeper into the material. Such cracks, however, can travel
only if they do not encounter resistance. The crystals in the rubber
matrix of the spider silk provide obstacles that divert and weaken
the rending force.27
For something under tension even minor damage
to the surface can be dangerous. But this risk is avoided by a precautionary
measure in spider thread. While the garden spider spins its silk,
it coats it with a liquid material at the same time, in such a way
that any cracks that might appear on the surface of the silk are
avoided. This method, which spiders have been employing for millions
of years, is used in today's industrial cables, which bear heavy
loads and need to be very strong.
The tiny drops on the surface of the thread are seen here.
The descriptions given so far have been technical
ones of an existent miracle of construction. But now we must stop
and think. What is the truth underlying these technical explanations?
It is obvious that the spider is unaware of proteins and the crystal
states of the atom. It also knows nothing about chemistry, physics,
or engineering. It is a creature bereft of the capacity of thought.
But as for the features it possesses, it is impossible for these
to be explained by means of chance. But in that case, who is it
who makes all these plans and calculations? As we study the spider's
web and silk, and its ways of hunting and living, it is immediately
clear that it could not have brought about this flawless technical
operation all by itself.
Any spider we can see at any moment in a hidden
corner or among the plants in a garden is, with its concentration
of chemical, physical and architectural capability, yet another
clear proof of God's art of creation. In this living creature God
is revealing to us His limitless wisdom, His infinite power of creation.
It is God Who inspires everything the spider does. God announces
this truth in the Qur'an:
Everything in the heavens and the earth glorifies
God. He is the Almighty, the All-Wise. The kingdom of the heavens
and the earth belongs to Him. He gives life and causes death. He
has power over all things. (Surat al-Hadid: 1-2)
The Garden Spider's Amazing Web-Spinning Techniques
Garden spiders use a strut
to strengthen their nests. In its web the spider stabilises the
outermost spiral thread with 4 to 6 holding points and suspends
it vertically to catch insects in flight. Apart from this, spiders
fix a weight on to the lower half of the outermost spiral thread
from another short thread in such a way as to make it taut. This
weight, which makes the web strong and swings in the air, may be
a small stone, or a piece of wood, or a snail shell. Scientists
have observed that when they gently lift the weight hanging from
the web without releasing it and stopping it swinging, the spider
waiting in its nest immediately emerges and checks it. Then the
spider shortens the thread in order to let the weight swing free
again. The results of these observations have established that all
this is done by the spider with the aim of strengthening the web.28
The Most Pitiless Trap in the World
Prey caught in a spider's web can do little about
it. The trap is prepared so expertly that, as the victim struggles,
the web loses elasticity and grips the prey even tighter. As a little
time passes and the victim becomes completely powerless, the web
grows stronger and tauter than before. In this way the spider, watching
the creature's hopeless struggle from a corner somewhere, can easily
kill the trapped prey, which is now exhausted.
one would expect when a victim gets stuck in a web is that, as the
insect struggles, the web is pulled out of shape and the creature
escapes from the trap. But exactly the opposite happens and the
web grows stronger, completely immobilising the insect. How can
a web increase in strength as
the victim caught in it struggles?
The answer to this emerges
when we examine the structure of the web. The spider's capturing
threads take on a new form due to the moisture of the air. The change
happens like this. The garden spider's spiral threads are formed
by the coming together of two liquid-covered fibres. This adhesive
liquid is produced in a different gland from those which produce
the basic fibres. The silk threads which emerge from the spider's
spinning glands are continuously coated in a film of this sticky
material. The source of the adhesive nature of this material is
the glycoproteins it contains. Furthermore, it consists of 80 percent
of that economic material, water.29
As the sticky liquid comes into contact with
the water in the air it separates into tiny drops which attach themselves
to the thread like little beads. Contracting and stretching the
sticky thread in rapid succession wind and unwind the core fibres
inside the droplets. Thus, the entire system of core fibers and
coating is always under tension, keeping the sticky thread taut.
Energy applied by buffeting winds or blundering insects is not absorbed
by the silk itself but by the entire system.
The core fibers do their share
of the work as well. Plasticized and therefore essentially like
reinforced rubber, they benefit directly from the fact that entropic
elasticity is temperature dependent. Because the kinetic energy
of the prey is largely converted into heat, the thread warms up.
The heating increases entropy, and consequently the core fibers
grow stronger. The absorbed energy of the prey actually strengthens
the capturing thread and does so only because of the spider's clever
trick of applying aqueous coating.30
On account of these features the spider's web is the most pitiless
trap in nature.
One may wonder whether these features are present
or not in other silken threads. What would happen if that were the
case? For example what would happen if load-bearing threads had
the same stretching capacity? Of course it would be quite difficult
for the spider to carry itself or its prey. In fact, the load-bearing
silks, which make up the skeleton of the web, in contrast to the
catching threads, are coated in another substance which protects
them from water, because it is not necessary for the load-bearing
threads to be as elastic as the adhesive ones.
As has been seen, the spider makes coatings of
different substances for silks of various functions and construction
as and when necessary. Right, so how does the spider know about
the coatings' different physical and chemical effects? To maintain
that the spider was trained, or came by them by experience or coincidence
flies in the face of intelligence and common sense.
At this point just a little thought is sufficient
to find the true answer. In order for the spider to be able to plan
all this, it would first have to learn all the molecular structures,
and the chemical mechanisms which cause the liquid to solidify as
we have described above. Then after learning all this, it would
then have to decide to go into production. After reaching that decision
it would then have to bring about certain changes within its own
body and set up the systems to make all these products.
This, of course, is an imaginary scenario. As
we have seen, the perfect planning of the spider's body and its
purposeful behaviour cannot be explained by any event in nature
or any other force. That the spider was unable to do all of this
for itself is a fact that any intelligent person can see. It is
not possible, therefore to explain the spiders' purposeful behaviour
and physical structure by changes over time or any other evolutionary
All living creatures in nature have characteristics
similar to, or even more detailed, than those of the spider. Observing
any one of them will suffice to confirm the obvious planning in
these living creatures. The existence of a force which governs all
of them is quite clear. Their physical planning, or else their behaviour
prove that these living things were made by a creator, in other
words, by God. It is enough to use our intelligence to see this.
God, the Lord of all the worlds has announced this fact to mankind
with His verse, '(He is) The Lord of the East
and the West and everything between them. If only you used your
intellect.' (Surat ash-Shu'ara': 28)
The Spider's Silk and the Defence Industry
A material's strength and elasticity are of great
importance in the industrial sector. Strength widens the field in
which it can be used, and elasticity increases the ease with which
it can be applied. From the point of view of strength and elasticity,
spider thread is the most perfect material in the world. For this
reason researchers greatly increased their studies of spider silk
in the last quarter of the 20th century. As a result
of these they have been able to produce by chemical means only something
resembling spider silk but of much poorer quality. In short, modern
technology, despite all its resources and research, has been unable
to produce a thread with qualities equivalent to that which the
Spider thread is a protein principally consisting
of the amino acids glycine, alanine, serine and tyrosine. The Du
Pont company has produced various synthetic fibres by unearthing
the chemical formula of the silk and determining the order in which
the molecules which make it up lie. Every giant molecule in this
synthetic polymer is made up of thousands of molecular chains of
carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, and hydrogen atoms. This product, known
as "Kevlar," today produced artificially, is the most
developed of organic fibres. With their strength and elasticity,
Kevlar synthetic fibres come closest to the physical characteristics
of spider silk.
Kevlar is used in car seat-belts and in various
items of protective clothing. It is an important product also used
to large degree in the aircraft and shipping industry as an external
material, in the production of fibre-optic and electro-mechanical
cables, in the rope and cable industry, and in various sports implements.
Kevlar fibres are made from "poly-paraphenylene
terephthalamide." This fibre, consisting of long molecular
chains, is suitable for bending and using as a thread thanks to
its construction. Its properties of durability and lightness have
led to this material being used in many areas of industry.
One of the most important fields in which Kevlar
has been utilized in this century has been the defence industry.
Bullet-proof vests, which used to be made from steel, are now made
from fabrics woven from Kevlar fibres, which look no different from
ordinary cloth. Kevlar, thanks to its shock-absorbing properties,
reduces the bullet's force of impact. This is a most important discovery
from the technological point of view, as well as being a most useful
one. Yet despite these excellent properties, Kevlar fibres' shock-absorbing
properties are only one-third of those of spider silk.
There are important conclusions and warnings
here for anyone who considers the fact that scientific research
centres with the most up-to-date technology have only been able
to produce a less-developed imitation of the silk the spider produces.
This contrast is one of the proofs that it was God who made living
creatures with His matchless creative power.
The Place of Spider Silk in Peoples' Lives
During research into the chemistry of spider
silk, threads are drawn from spiders by special machines. In this
way it is possible to obtain 320 metres of silk a day from each
animal (about 3 milligrams) without harming it.
Medical science is another field where the threads
produced in this way are used, or rather where the spider is of
service to mankind. Pharmacologists at Wyoming University in the
USA use the threads from the Nephila spider as threads in some very
sensitive operations, such as on tendons and joints.
Bilim ve Teknik Görsel Bilim ve Teknik Ansiklopedisi (Science and
Technology Gorsel Science and Technology Encyclopedia), p. 1087
21- Technology Review, Synthetic Spider Silk, October
1994, p. 16
22- Discover, How Spiders Make Their Silk, October
1998, p. 34
23- Discover, How Spiders Make Their Silk, October
1998, p. 34
24- Endeavour, The Structure and Properties of Spider
Silk, January1986, no 10, p. 37
25- Scientific American, Spider Webs and Silks, March
1992, p. 70
26- Science News, Computer Reveals Clues to Spiderwebs,
21 January 1995
27- Scientific American, Spider Webs and Silks, March
1992, p. 70
28- Bilim ve Teknik Dergisi (Journal of Science and
Technology), No 342, May 1996, p.100
29- Science et Vie, L'économie de la toile d'araignée,
January 1999, No.976, p.30
30- Scientific American, Spider Webs and Silks, March
1992, p. 74