, Volume 112, Issue 4, pp 572-576

Adult male bolas spiders retain juvenile hunting tactics

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Bolas spiders in the genus Mastophora exhibit extreme sexual size dimorphism. In temperate regions, the diminutive males become adults about 2 months before females mature. Late-instar and adult females attract certain male moths by aggressive chemical mimicry of those moth species' sex pheromones. While hunting, these larger female spiders hang from a horizontal silken line and capture moths by swinging a “bolas” (i.e., a sticky globule suspended on a thread) at the approaching moths. Small, early-instar bolas spiders of both sexes attract moth flies in the genus Psychoda, which they capture without using a bolas or web. Instead, they position themselves along leaf margins and use their front two pairs of legs to grab approaching prey. The predatory habits of adult male bolas spiders have never been reported. Our field experiments demonstrated that adult males of the bolas spider Mastophora phrynosoma attract adult male Psychoda phalaenoides. Each year during our 3-year study, significantly more P. phalaenoides were captured on sticky traps baited with live adult male M. phrynosoma than on unbaited control traps. Thus, the tiny adult male bolas spiders retain the juvenile hunting tactic of attracting psychodid flies, while female bolas spiders switch from hunting psychodid flies as spiderlings to hunting moths when the female spiders become older and larger.

Received: 5 May 1997 / Accepted: 14 July 1997