Bees are the new silkworms
Dr Tara Sutherland and her group from CSIRO Entomology are looking at silks produced by other insects and the results of their recent work have been published in Molecular Biology and Evolution, in the paper Conservation of Essential Design Features in Coiled Coil Silks.
"Most people are unaware that bees and ants produce silk but they do and its molecular structure is very different to that of the large protein, sheet structure of moth and spider silk. The cocoon and nest silks we looked at consist of coiled coils - a protein structural arrangement where multiple helices wind around each other. This structure produces a light weight, very tough silk," she says.
These groups of insects have evolved silks that are very tough and stable in comparison to the classical sheet silks and it is probable that the evolution of this remarkable material has underpinned the success of the social Hymenoptera.
Source: csiro.auAdded: 27 June 2008