Spider genomes give hints about venom, silk production

Sequencing the genome of the African social velvet spider revealed proteins involved in producing venom and silk. The proteins could be used in biomaterials or insecticides.

Peter Gammelby

The whole genome of the African social velvet spider, Stegodyphus mimosarum, and a draft genome of the Brazilian white-knee tarantula, Acanthoscurria geniculata, were reported May 6 in Nature Communications. The velvet spider’s genome contains about 2.5 billion base pairs and the tarantula’s genome has roughly 6.5 billion base pairs. An analysis of the spiders’ genetic codes identified new proteins involved in making silk and in producing and turning on toxins in venom.

Ashley Yeager is the associate news editor at Science News. She has worked at The Scientist, the Simons Foundation, Duke University and the W.M. Keck Observatory, and was the web producer for Science News from 2013 to 2015. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and a master’s degree in science writing from MIT.

More Stories from Science News on Genetics