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Variable dependence on detrital and grazing food webs by generalist predators: aerial insects and web spiders

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Recent studies have shown that organisms from the detritus food web subsidize generalist predators in aboveground food webs, but its significance in space and time is largely unknown. Here we report seasonal dynamics of aerial insects from grazing and detritus food webs in both forest and grassland habitats, and show how these patterns influence the dependence of web spiders on the detritus food web. Detrital insects were more abundant in spring, decreased in summer, and then increased slightly in autumn. This pattern was most conspicuous in Nematocera. Due to different seasonal activity patterns of grazing and detrital insects, the proportion of detrital insects was greater in spring and autumn. Detrital insects were relatively more abundant in the forest than in the grassland. Prey captured by web spiders generally reflected seasonal and spatial patterns of aerial insect abundance. In particular, Leucauge spiders reversed their dependence on the two food webs seasonally. Body size of spiders was negatively correlated with the proportion of detrital prey, suggesting that the detrital subsidy is essential for relatively small predators. This size effect probably resulted from interaction of the following two factors: 1) the maximum body size of prey that can be caught increased with spider body size, 2) larger body size classes of aerial insects included a higher proportion of insects from the grazing food web.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: August 1, 2005

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