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Prey-capture strategies in sympatric web-building spiders

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Arthropods in several orders use traps to capture prey. Such trap-building predators expend most of their foraging energy prior to any prey contact. Nevertheless, relative investments in trap construction and actual prey capture may vary among trap builders, and they are likely to face a trade-off between building very effective but energetically costly traps and building less effective traps requiring faster reaction times when attacking prey. We analysed this trade-off in a field experiment by comparing the prey capture behaviour of four different sympatric web-building spiders (Araneae: Araneidae, Nephilidae, Tetragnathidae, Theridiidae) with the retention times of five different prey types in the webs of these spiders. Retention times differed greatly among webs and among prey types. The vertical orb webs retained prey longer than the horizontal orb web and the sheet web, and active prey escaped more quickly than less active prey. Among spiders with orb webs, the spider with the web that retained prey for the shortest time was the fastest to capture prey, thus confirming the expected trade-off between building long-retaining webs and attacking slowly versus building short-retaining webs and attacking more rapidly. The sheet web, however, neither retained prey for an appreciable period of time nor facilitated rapid prey capture. We suggest that this low capture effectiveness of sheet webs is compensated by their lower maintenance costs.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2006-07-01

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  • Published since 1929, this monthly journal reports on primary research contributed by respected international scientists in the broad field of zoology, including behaviour, biochemistry and physiology, developmental biology, ecology, genetics, morphology and ultrastructure, parasitology and pathology, and systematics and evolution. It also invites experts to submit review articles on topics of current interest.
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