The unique combination of great stiffness, strength, and extensibility makes spider major ampullate (MA) silk desirable for various biomimetic and synthetic applications. Intensive research on the genetics, biochemistry, and biomechanics of this material has facilitated a thorough understanding of its properties at various levels. Nevertheless, methods such as cloning, recombination, and electrospinning have not successfully produced materials with properties as impressive as those of spider silk. It is nevertheless becoming clear that silk properties are a consequence of whole-organism interactions with the environment in addition to genetic expression, gland biochemistry, and spinning processes. Here we assimilate the research done and assess the techniques used to determine distinct forms of spider silk chemical and physical property variability. We suggest that more research should focus on testing hypotheses that explain spider silk property variations in ecological and evolutionary contexts.


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