News in Brief

UCI Professor Named Vice Chancellor of African School

Neurobiology Professor Hans Keirstead left on Friday for the humid, barren region of Conakry, Guines in West Africa, where he will become the new vice chancellor at the University of Community Development on Oct. 3.

Keirstead’s father, Ken, is the president of the school and teaches its 280 students various tasks, such as planting trees and digging wells. After his inauguration, Keirstead plans on staying a week before traveling to Paris to issue a science lecture.

Study Reveals Tarantulas Producing Silk with Feet

Aside from producing silk from spinnerets, recent studies revealed that tarantulas also produce silk from their feet that give them a better grip on surfaces.

‘Nature’ published the findings by Adam Summers, UC Irvine’s ecology and evolutionary biology assistant professor, and other scientists. Summers and his team used Costa Rican zebra tarantulas in their experiment.

These spiders are ground-dwelling organisms and they cling to vertical surfaces using the hairs and claws on their feet. However, in Summers’ experiment, scientists discovered that, when placed on a vertical glass surface, the tarantulas secreted silk from their feet that allowed them to hang onto the glass for 20 minutes.

According to Summers, if other spiders besides tarantulas spin silk from their feet, the evolutionary hypothesis held by scientists in the field could completely change. Such information could imply that silk production began in the feet for the function of traction. The silk from the spinneret would have evolved later.

Summers is now investigating whether or not the silk from the feet are the same as the silk secreted from the abdomen. He will take a look at the genes involved in the production of silk, as several spiders are able to produce different types of silk.