You’ve heard of Spider-Man, but have you heard of spider goats? Unlike the crazy superhero, this isn’t a work of fiction. In 2000, a company called Nexia Biotechnologies has decided it would be a good idea to genetically engineer goats with spider DNA from a golden orb-weaver spider. Thankfully the goats still have only four legs, and no horrific Cronenberg-esque hybrid monsters were created. However, they did manage to give birth to goats that produce milk filled with super-strength spider silk!
This seems like a strange experiment to do with goats, but so far it’s yielding incredible results. The golden orb-weaver spider produces silk that’s tougher than Kevlar and over a hundred times as strong as a human ligament. Recently an image was floating around the internet of this spider catching a bird in it’s web and eating it (see the image below). Instead of having a massive spider farm to attempt to harvest the silk (orb-weavers are cannibals, and would be nearly impossible to farm), an easier solution is just to milk a goat and separate the silk.
Why goats? The company decided that rather than cross-breeding cows (which weigh a ton and are hard to force around) that a goat would be a perfect solution.
They’re small and easy to maneuver, and if a goat won’t listen, it’s a lot easier to push around than a 1500-pound cow. The engineered goats seem just like regular ones, walking around and eating like normal.
In order to develop these spider-goats, researches were able to isolate the specific part of the spider’s genetic code that is responsible for creating the protein that produces silk, and spliced it with the goat’s genes responsible for producing milk. Next, they implanted the mutated embryos into female goats and let the natural process of birthing take over. In the end, they can just breed spider-goats with regular goats, and half the babies will have the spider DNA.
The commercial application for this silk is limitless; everything from bicycle tires to parachute fabric, and eventually artificial tendons and ligaments stronger than anything created before. The spider silk is five-times as strong as steel, while also being elastic and waterproof. This is an incredible leap in bio-engineering, and now that spider-goats have been created, it opens the door for all new kinds of mutations. Hopefully no one is as stupid as Jeff Goldblum and tries to breed humans with flies to created a deranged race of retarded creatures.