Australian Journal of Zoology Australian Journal of Zoology Society
Evolutionary, molecular and comparative zoology

Foraging behaviour in orb-web spiders (Araneidae): do web decorations increase prey capture success in Argiope keyserlingi Karsch, 1878?

Australian Journal of Zoology 48(2) 217 - 223
Published: 2000


Orb web spiders in the genus Argiope attach highly visible silk bands called decorations or stabilimenta to their webs. Two different hypotheses regarding the function of these structures were investigated in the field using Argiope keyserlingi: prey attraction and anti-predatory device. The first hypothesis suggests that web decorations attract prey to the web, and webs carrying decorations will capture more prey than those without. A field census of prey capture showed that webs adorned with more decorative bands indeed captured more but similarly sized prey per hour compared with webs carrying fewer decorations. Web height or web size, however, were not related to the rate of prey capture. This pattern was confirmed by a paired comparison of prey-capture rates within individuals that increased or decreased the number of decorative bands on consecutive days. Individuals that used more decorations also captured more prey compared with days when they spun fewer decorations. The second hypothesis suggests that these structures function as anti-predatory devices and, consequently, spiders on decorated webs benefit from a lower rate of mortality than spiders on undecorated webs. A census of the mortality rates of spiders over 19 days revealed that spiders did not disappear from undecorated webs more frequently than from decorated webs. Consequently, the idea that web decorations act as anti-predatory devices in A. keyserlingi was not supported.

© CSIRO 2000

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