Short Communication


, Volume 93, Issue 5, pp 251-254

First online:

Tie them up tight: wrapping by Philoponella vicina spiders breaks, compresses and sometimes kills their prey

  • William G. EberhardAffiliated withSmithsonian Tropical Research Institute, and Escuela de Biología, Universidad de Costa RicaBiología, U. C. R. Email author 
  • , Gilbert BarrantesAffiliated withEscuela de Biología, Universidad de Costa Rica
  • , Ju-Lin WengAffiliated withEscuela de Biología, Universidad de Costa Rica

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We show that uloborid spiders, which lack the poison glands typical of nearly all other spiders, employ thousands of wrapping movements with their hind legs and up to hundreds of meters of silk line to make a shroud that applies substantial compressive force to their prey. Shrouds sometimes break the prey’s legs, buckle its compound eyes inward, or kill it outright. The compressive force apparently results from the summation of small tensions on sticky lines as they are applied to the prey package. Behavioral details indicate that wrapping is designed to compact prey; in turn, compaction probably functions to facilitate these spiders’ unusual method of feeding. This is the first demonstration that prey wrapping by spiders compacts and physically damages their prey, rather than simply restraining them.