Dr. Todd Blackledge
My lab uses spider silks as a model system to explore how evolutionary processes interact across the biological hierarchy. We especially focus on the coevolution of behaviors and biomaterials in the function of spider webs. Silks are externally expressed proteins with incredible material properties that play essential roles in the survival of spiders. The biomechanical function of silk threads in webs, lifelines, and protective egg sacs are all closely tied to the molecular structures of their constituent proteins. The spider silk system provides an ideal opportunity to explore evolutionary interactions between silk genes, protein structure, biomechanical performance, and ecological function during the 400 million year history of this biological super-material. We also investigate how the exceptional material properties of spiders silks can be utilized in biomimetic applications ranging from synthetic muscles to new types of glues.
2000 Ph.D. Department of Entomology, advisor: John W. Wenzel, thesis “Stabilimenta in spider webs: Predator-prey conflict and sensory drive”, The Ohio State University
1994 B.S. Biology, The George Washington University, magna cum laude
Blackledge T.A. 2012. Spider silk: a brief review and prospectus on research linking biomechanics and ecology in draglines and orb webs. Journal of Arachnology. In press.
Blackledge T.A., Kuntner M. & Agnarsson I. 2011. The form and function of spider orb webs: evolution from silk to ecosystems. Advances in Insect Physiology. 41:175-262.
Blackledge T.A. 2011. Prey capture in orb weaving spiders: Are we using the best metric? Journal of Arachnology. 39:205-210.
Boutry C.*, Řezáč M. & Blackledge T.A. 2011. Plasticity in major ampullate silk production in relation to spider phylogeny and ecology. PLoS One. 6(7):e22467.
Sahni V.*, Blackledge T.A. & Dhinojwala A. 2011. Changes in the adhesive properties of spider aggregate glue during the evolution of cobwebs. Scientific Reports (Nature publishing). 1:41.
Sahni V.*, Blackledge T.A. & Dhinojwala A. 2011. A review on spider silk adhesion. Journal of Adhesion. 87: 595-614.
Harmer A.M.T., Blackledge T.A., Madin J.S. & Herberstein M.E. 2011. High-performance spider webs: integrating biomechanics, ecology and behaviour. Journal of the Royal Society Interface. 8(57):457-471.
Boutry C.* & Blackledge T.A., 2010. Evolution of supercontraction in spider silk: structure-function relationship from tarantulas to orb-weavers. Journal of Experimental Biology. 213: 3505-3514.
Agnarsson I., Kuntner M. & Blackledge T.A. 2010. Bioprospecting finds the toughest biological material: extraordinary silk from a giant riverine orb spider. PLoS One. 5(9):e11234. Doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0011234. (Featured in Science, BBC, National Geographic News, Discovery News, Smithsonian, Time, etc.)
Sensenig A., Agnarsson I., & Blackledge T.A., 2010. Behavioural and biomaterial coevolution in spider orb webs. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 23:1807-2029. (cover article)
Sahni V*, Blackledge T.A. & Dhinojwala A. 2010. Viscoelastic solids explain spider web stickiness. Nature Communications 1:19 DOI: 10.1038/ncomms1019. (featured in WKSU-FM, WKYC-TV, NSF, Nature News, etc.)
Blackledge T.A., Boutry C.,* Wong S.C., Baji A.,* Dhinojwala A., Sahni V. & Agnarsson I. 2009. How super is supercontraction? Persistent versus cyclic response to humidity in spider dragline silk. Journal of Experimental Biology. 212:1981-1989. (cover article featured in Inside JEB, New Scientist,WKYC-TV)
Agnarsson I., Dhinojwala A., Sahni V.*, & Blackledge T.A.. 2009. Spider silk as a novel high performance muscle driven by humidity. Journal of Experimental Biology. 212:1990-1994. (cover article featured in Conservation Magazine, Discovery News, Inside JEB, MedGadget, WKYC-TV, WOSU, NanoWerk New Scientist, Popular Mechanics, etc.)
Blackledge T.A, Scharff N., Coddington J., Szüts T., Wenzel J.W., Hayashi C.Y. & Agnarsson I. 2009. Spider web evolution and diversification in the molecular era. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 106: 5229-5234. (featured in Associated Press article, Columbus Dispatch)
Blackledge T.A., Coddington J. & Agnarsson I. 2009. Fecundity increase supports adaptive radiation hypothesis in spider web evolution. Communicative & Integrative Biology. 2(6):1-5. (cover)
Zevenbergen J.M.*, Schneider N.K.**, Blackledge T.A., 2008. Fine dining or fortress? Functional shifts in spider web architecture by the western black widow Latrodectus hesperus. Animal Behavior. 76:823-829. (featured in New Scientist, Nature.com)
Blackledge T.A. & Eliason. C.M.* 2007. Functionally independent components of prey capture are architecturally constrained in spider orb webs. Biology Letters. 3:456-458.
Blackledge T.A. & Hayashi C.Y. 2006. Unraveling the mechanical properties of composite silk threads spun by cribellate orb-weaving spiders. Journal of Experimental Biology. 209: 3131-3140. (featured Inside JEB, commentary in Current Biology)
Blackledge T.A. & Hayashi C.Y. 2006. Silken toolkits: biomechanics of silk fibers spun by the orb web spider Argiope argentata. Journal of Experimental Biology. 209: 2452-2461. (cover article, featured in Natural History)
Blackledge T.A. & Gillespie R.G. 2004. Convergent evolution of web building behaviors in an adaptive radiation of Hawaiian spiders. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 101: 16228-16233. (featured in GEO & BBC Wildlife magazines)
Hayashi C.Y., Blackledge T.A. & Lewis R.V. 2004. Molecular and mechanical characterization of spider aciniform silk: Uniformity of Iterated Sequence Modules in a Novel Member of the Spider Silk Fibroin Gene Family. Molecular Biology and Evolution. 21:1950-1959.
Blackledge T.A., Coddington J.A., and Gillespie R.G. 2003. The evolution of three-dimensional spider webs as predator defenses. Ecology Letters.6:13-18. (cover article; featured in GEO magazine)
Blackledge,T.A. & Wenzel J.W. 2001. Silk mediated defense by an orb web spider against predatory mud‑dauber wasps. Behaviour. 138:155-171.
Blackledge T.A. & Wenzel J.W. 2000. The evolution of cryptic spider silk: a behavioral test. Behavioral Ecology 11:142-145.
Blackledge T.A. & Wenzel J.W. 1999. Do stabilimenta in orb webs attract prey or defend spiders? Behavioral Ecology 10:372-376. (cover article)
Blackledge T.A. 1998. Signal conflict in spider webs driven by predators and prey. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Biological Sciences 265:1991-1996.