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I wanted to include a spider-like race in my book (not a typical drider, but more like a hairy hominid covered in tarantula-like hair and thinner and longer limbs and fingers). However, I wanted them to have some silk-producing capabilities (or at least something similar), but I'm not sure how it could work. Would it be possible for a mammal to evolve the capability to produce a substance similar to spider-silk (I'm not sure where it would produce it from, but maybe it's skin or saliva)? If the question is too vague, I'll do my best to edit it with suggestions.

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  • $\begingroup$ Are you intending that they be able to use it for something? Building nests maybe? Or making lassos to snare prey? $\endgroup$ – puppetsock Feb 4 at 20:37
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Humans aren't patient enough for evolution, so we've just gone ahead and done it already. The spider silk gene has already been spliced into goats, which then produce the spider silk protein in their milk. There is ongoing research to splice this gene into plants which could then be harvested for spider silk. So overall, it's absolutely possible for other animals to produce spider silk. If you want this to evolve naturally, the question now becomes about what selective pressures would result in a spider-silk producing mammal in the natural course of evolution.

See https://phys.org/news/2010-05-scientists-goats-spider-silk.html

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    $\begingroup$ Now all I can think about is females of the species shooting spider silk out of their breasts. $\endgroup$ – Richard Lindahl Feb 4 at 19:10
  • $\begingroup$ +1 for bringing up the exact same thing I was going to do to bring up. Keep in mind DNA is a blue print for an organism. Blue prints do not build things... the only show the builders how to build the thing (in the case of life, DNA is read by an organell in the cell called a Ribosome, which will build the protein based on the encoded Amino acid that code represents.). Any organism's ribosomes can read and reproduce any protein from any other organism given all required amino acids are available to it. $\endgroup$ – hszmv Feb 4 at 19:30
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    $\begingroup$ Additionally, the reason it was produced in goat's milk was in order to retrieve silk, it has to be excreted from the body and goats milk is something humans have a much better capture system for than other excretion methods available to the goat. @RichardLindahl The silk was never "shot" by the goats, but rather was retrieved by standard farm milking practices and then captured by straining it from the resulting milk. That said, there's no reason why a mammal can't evolve a biolotical mechanism to shoot web like a spider on a part of their body that isn't close to where a spider does it. $\endgroup$ – hszmv Feb 4 at 19:33
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    $\begingroup$ They don't actually produce spider silk, but only the protein that gives spider silk its strength. There is a lot more to producing something like spider silk. $\endgroup$ – puppetsock Feb 4 at 20:36
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Yes, of course. There's always Horizontal Gene Transfer sometimes called lateral gene transfer.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horizontal_gene_transfer

Gene transfer is most commonly thought of as two parents creating a child, and passing genetics that way. Bacteria, for example, can also exchange genetic information laterally (horizontal) from one to another without having to create a new one. This process also includes the spread of antibiotic resistance genes among bacteria

Horizontal Gene Transfer in animals has the organism's DNA altered after birth. For it to be inherited it would need to happen in the gametes, either egg or sperm. For just the individual it would need to happen in a stem cell.

There's a couple ways to do it, viral or bacteria. Either injects new DNA into the target cell.

As you know, viruses can get into your cells and change the genetic coding to create more viruses. For your purposes though it would need to be a side effect or error of an infection resulting in beneficial genes rather than more viruses. Quite possibly in the matter of silk the genes would need to come from another host of the virus, likely an arachnid.

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Chitines are a manufactured Forgotten Realms race that were cooked up by some Drow in Ched Nasad. Their silk comes from a hole around the location of most people's belly button. Lolth was not amused by the creation, nor were the chitines.

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