Dr. Todd Blackledge

Dr. Todd Blackledge

Title: Professor, BRIC Core Faculty
Dept/Program: Biology
Office: ASEC E506
Phone: 330-972-4264
Fax: 330-972-8445
Email: blackledge@uakron.edu
Website: https://www.blackledgelab.com/


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


* graduate student coauthor, ** undergraduate coauthor

Hsiung B-K.*, Shawkey M.D. & Blackledge T.A. 2015. Blue reflectance in tarantulas is evolutionarily conserved despite nanostructural diversity. Science Advances. In press.

Madurga R.*, Blackledge T.A., Perea B., Plaza G.R., Riekel C., Burghammer M., Elices M., Guinea G. & Perez-Rigueiro J. 2015. Persistence and variation in microstructural design during the evolution of dragline silk. Scientific Reports (Nature publishing) 5:14820.

Jain D.*, Zhang C.*, Cool L.R., Blackledge T.A., Wesdemiotis C., Miyoshi T. & Dhinojwala A. 2015 Composition and function of spider glues maintained during the evolution of cobwebs. Biomacromolecules. DOI: 10.1021/acs.biomac.5b01040

Amarpuri G*, Chaurasai V**, Jain D*, Blackledge TA & Dhinojwala A. 2015. Ubiquitous distribution of salts and proteins in spider glue enhances spider silk adhesion. Scientific Reports. 5: 9030.

Sahni V.*, Miyoshi T., Chen K.**, Jain D.*, Blamires S.J., Blackledge T.A. & Dhinojwala A. 2014. Direct solvation of glycoproteins by salts in spider silk glues enhances adhesion and helps to explain the evolution of modern spider orb webs. Biomacromolecules 15:1225-1232.

Marhabaie M.**, Leeper T.C. & Blackledge T.A. 2014. Protein composition correlates with the mechanical properties of spider (Argiope trifasciata) dragline silk. Biomacromolecules 15: 20-29.

Boutry C.* & Blackledge T.A. 2013. Wet webs work better: humidity, supercontraction and the performance of spider orb webs. Journal of Experimental Biology. 213. 3606-3610.

Sensenig A., Kelly S.P.**, Lorentz K.A.**, Lesher B.** & Blackledge T.A. 2013. Mechanical performance of spider orb webs is tuned for high-speed prey. Journal of Experimental Biology. 216: 3388-3394.

Blackledge, T.A. 2013. Spider silk: molecular structure and function in webs. In: Nentwig, W. Spider Ecophysiology, Springer. Pp. 267-281.

Blackledge, T.A., M. Kuntner, M. Marhabaie*, T.C. Leeper, Agnarsson, I. 2012. Biomaterial evolution parallels behavioral innovation in the origin of orb-like spider webs. Scientific Reports (Nature publishing) 2:833.

Blackledge, T.A., Pérez-Rigueiro, J., Plaza, G.R., Perea, B.*, Navarro, A.*, Guinea, G.V., Elices, M. 2012. Sequential origin in the high performance properties of orb spider dragline silk. Scientific Reports (Nature publishing). 2:782.

Sahni V.*, Harris J.**, Blackledge T.A., Dhinojwala A. 2012. Cobweb-weaving spiders produce different attachment discs for locomotion and prey capture. Nature Communications 3: 1106. 

Sensenig A., Lorentz K.A**, Kelly S.P.** & Blackledge T.A. 2012. Spider orb webs rely on radial threads to absorb prey energy. Journal of the Royal Society Interface. 9: 1880-1891.

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. 40:1-12.

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.

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.

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.)

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.)

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. & 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)