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Golden Spider Silk On Display at the American Museum of Natural History

Time is running out to view what took four years, some 80 people, and over one million golden orb spiders from Madagascar to create: an 11-by-4 foot, naturally golden-hued textile on display in the Museum through October 3.

For more than 100 years, people have tried to extract silk from spiders, but the spectacular, rare fabric showcased in the Museum Grand Gallery is the only surviving textile made out of the silk of these hairy, eight-legged creatures.

“I was blown away by its wonderful, lustrous, golden color,” says Museum Curator Ian Tattersall. “Only one other spider silk textile was ever exhibited, in Paris around 1900, and that has subsequently been lost, so this is unique in the world”

Golden orb spiders—the largest of which can grow to the size of a human hand—produce golden-hued silk that is stronger than steel but is conveniently elastic and lightweight. Because of these rare properties, people have envisioned potential applications for spider silk in battle, surgery, and space exploration, among other fields. But unlike silkworms, which can be easily farmed to produce mass quantities of silk, golden orb spiders are cannibalistic in nature, making them difficult to hold in close quarters and to extract silk filament in big quantities.

Image: Spider Silk, AMNH\R. Mickens

American Museum of Natural History Central Park West at 79th Street, New York, NY, 10024-5192

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