STEVE LOWRY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY STEVE LOWRY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Polarised light micrograph of silk from the Chinese silk worm (Bombyx mori). The process of producing silk from the silkworm began around 2700 BC. Silkworms have a pair of specially modified salivary glands called sericteries, which produce a clear, viscous, proteinaceous fluid. This is forced through openings on the mouthparts of the larva, called spinnerets, and hardens as it comes into contact with the air. A gum called sericin cements the two filaments together. In the silk production process the cocoon is softened in hot water to remove the sericin, which frees the silk filament ends for reeling. The silk thread is produced as a continuous filament which can be up to 900 metres in length.
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