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Keywords:

  • silk;
  • rheology;
  • evolution;
  • bombyx;
  • viscosity

Abstract

Lepidoperan silks provide a superb opportunity for comparative studies of spinning and fiber characteristics. Comparing the four species, Bombyx mori (China), Actias selene (India), Antheraea yamamai (Japan), Gonometa postica (Africa), allows us to examine differences on the family, species, and race levels. Measured rheological properties were consistent with phylogenetic relationships and in the context of resource allocation and gland morphology. We propose that the thorough domestication of the mulberry silkworm B. mori for high silk yield has resulted in a compensatory optimization for spinning efficiency. This is in stark contrast to the wild silkworms, where Saturnids appear to minimize their energetic input toward silk output and G. postica seems to balance both. We conclude that comparative studies provide valuable baseline information for future biomimetic applications and modeling, as well as illuminating biologically important details of silk processing. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Biopolymers 97: 362–367, 2012.