I’m not sure how official it is, but according to various sources on the web, today is Spider-Man Day. So, while I haven’t been able to find anything else of much interest, let’s just go with that, shall we?
Spider-Man is undoubtably one of the best loved superheroes ever dreamt up by Marvel Comics. This has a lot to do with the fact that the person behind the suit, Peter Parker, was pitched as a bit of a nerd, an outsider with whom many young readers could easily relate.
But beyond this human touch, Spider-Man’s lasting fascination must have a lot to do with our fascination of the creepy crawly that gave the superhero his powers. Spiders (order Araneae), the eight legged, predatory anthropods that evokes equal measures of fascination and fear in the human race. More than 40 000 species of spiders have been identified, and they are one of the most widely distributed groups of organisms, having established themselves in an extremely diverse range of habitats.
Indeed there is much to find fascinating, and scary, in spiders, from miniscule, deadly poisonous species to huge monsters that can take on birds and lizards. Spiders use various techniques to hunt and capture their prey – trapping them in sticky webs, camouflaging themselves to avoid detection, running down their prey, and more. Some hunting spiders even show signs of intelligence in their ability to develop new hunting tactics.
Spider venom, fatal to their prey and in many cases also deadly to humans, have been researched for use in medicine and natural insecticides.
And then there’s the incredible spider silk – the sticky stuff excreted by spiders that exceed almost all synthetic materials in terms of lightness, strength and elasticity, and without doubt the most fascinating ‘superpower’ in Spider-Man’s arsenal. Spider silk is composed mainly of protein. It is initially a liquid, and it hardens as a result of being drawn out, changing it’s internal protein structure. It’s tensile strength is similar to nylon and cellulose, but it’s way more elastic. Spiders use their silk for numerous applications, from webs to capture prey, to parachutes to carry them on the slightest breeze.
Fascinating creatures indeed, and definitely worthy of your admiration, whether you’re a Spider-Man fan or not!