By: Mark Townley, Ph.D. at the University of New Hampshire
A specimen prepared for high resolution imaging on a Tescan scanning electron microscope (SEM). The image shows the six spinnerets of an adult female spider of the species Argiope aurantia. Each spinneret is covered with more than 100 spigots (each spigot serving one silk gland inside the abdomen) from which the spider can draw various types of silk for various purposes. To “freeze the action”, liquid paraffin was applied while she was producing the outer wall of an egg sac. Once the paraffin was dissolved by benzene, the silk fibers she was drawing at the time were revealed; in this case, six silk fibers from the six cylindrical silk gland spigots, present only in females and used only (as far as we know) in the construction of egg sacs. From left edge to right edge is just about 3 mm.