Characterization of the Fishing Lines in Titiwai (=Arachnocampa luminosa Skuse, 1890) from New Zealand and Australia

Janek von Byern
Victoria Dorrer
David J. Merritt


Animals use adhesive secretions in a plethora of ways, either for attachment, egg anchorage, mating or as either active or passive defence. The most interesting function, however, is the use of adhesive threads to capture prey, as the bonding must be performed within milliseconds and under unsuitable conditions (movement of prey, variable environmental conditions, unfavourable attack angle, etc.) to be nonetheless successful. In the following study a detailed characterization of the prey capture system of the world-renowned glowworm group Arachnocampa from the macroscopic to the ultrastructural level is performed. The data reveal that the adhesive droplets consist mostly of water and display hygroscopic properties at varying humidity levels. The droplet core of Arachnocampa luminosa includes a certain amount of the elements sodium, sulphur and potassium (beside carbon, oxygen and nitrogen), while a different element composition is found in the two related species A. richardsae and A. tasmaniensis. Evidence for lipids, carbohydrates and proteins was negative on the histochemical level, however X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy confirm the presence of peptides within the droplet content. Different to earlier assumptions, the present study indicates that rather than oxalic acid, urea or uric acid are present in the adhesive droplets, presumably originating from the gut. Comparing the capture system in Arachnocampa with those of orb-spiders, large differences appear not only regarding the silky threads, but also, in the composition, hygroscopic properties and size of the mucous droplets.