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The influence of web silk decorations on fleeing behaviour of Florida orb weaver spiders, Argiope florida (Aranaeidae)

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Spider web silk decorations may (i) act to attract prey, (ii) be decoys for predators, and (iii) make the web visible to prevent larger animals from destroying them. To disentangle the last two hypotheses, we examined the fleeing response and flight initiation distance (FID) of the Florida orb weaver spider (Argiope florida Chamberlin and Ivie, 1944). Spiders were approached in one of two manners: (1) a “predatory” one mimicking a bird and (2) a “looming” approach mimicking the approach of a large animal. We predicted that if silk decorations had an antipredator function, then the extent of silk decoration would influence whether spiders fled from the predatory approach. However, if the function was primarily a signal to large animals, then all spiders would flee the looming approach, but FID would be influenced by the extent of silk decoration. We found no influence of silk decorations on fleeing behaviour and FID of spiders. Spider fleeing behaviour was, however, influenced by height of the web from the ground. The effects of web height might reflect an adaptive response to a more exposed position and therefore could support either of the two hypotheses tested; however, we have no evidence supporting the role of silk decorations on antipredator responses.

Keywords: Argiope florida; FID; Florida orb weaver spiders; arachnid; arachnide; araignées orbitèles; escape theory; risk assessment; stabilimentum; théorie de la fuite; évaluation du risque

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Department of Zoology and Entomology, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, 0002, South Africa. 2: Veterinary and Life Sciences, Murdoch University, Murdoch, Perth, WA 6150, Australia.

Publication date: 2013-04-16

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