A song about spider silk

AAfter building a web, spiders sit patiently, waiting for the movements of their prey to vibrate the silk threads beneath them like guitar strings. Based on this analogy, researchers at MIT introduced “Spider’s Canvas,” an algorithm that converts spider web vibrations into a digital stringed instrument. They presented their results on Monday (April 12) during the American Chemical Society’s spring virtual meeting.

“The spider lives in an environment of vibrating strings,” says Markus Bühler, who presented the work, in a press release. “They don’t see very well, that’s why they feel their world through vibrations that have different frequencies.”

The research used webs of tropical tent web spiders (Cyrtophora citricola) as seen above.

The shape of each spider web is unique to the species. While some types form these iconic, spoke-like circles, other types weave nets in three dimensions in various shapes. For this project, the researchers used Cyrtophora citricola, commonly known as the tropical tent web spider, to create a 3D digital web. The central, tightly woven part of the net is pointed like a tent and surrounded by a loosely connected frame made of silk.

A spider created its web in a box-like enclosure. After completing the work, the researchers scanned the web with lasers and created two-dimensional sections, which were then combined into a 3D image. They then used algorithms to analyze the frequencies of individual strings on the web and finally translated them into audible music – although this could be a liberal use of the word. Listen to:

A spider web has been translated into “music”.


The 3D models enabled researchers to manipulate the virtual web as they could in different environmental conditions. In other experiments, the team also recorded the web during various activities, such as mating or weaving, to give an indication of what the spider is experiencing vibrating. Over time, the researchers would be able to better decipher what information spiders receive from their movements on the Internet.

“Now we’re trying to generate synthetic signals so that we can basically speak the language of the spider,” says Bühler. “If we subject them to certain rhythmic or vibration patterns, can we influence what they do and can we begin to communicate with them? These are really exciting ideas. “

Hear the sounds of a web being built here:

Vibrations during the track construction are interpreted as sound


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