Silk strands emerging from glands on a spider’s abdomen. The spider uses its legs to stretch the material into webs, possibly with the help of the honeycomb-like paddles on the right. Spider silk is a protein that hardens as it emerges. It can be as strong as steel, has wound healing properties and is being investigated for use as microscale optical fibres.

Imaged using scanning electron microscopy by Dr Bronwen Cribb, University of Queensland.

This image has been colour-enhanced. Size: each silk strand is about 250 nanometres wide.