, Volume 15, Issue 6, pp 791-809

Untangling the Tangle-Web: Web Construction Behavior of the Comb-Footed Spider Steatoda triangulosa and Comments on Phylogenetic Implications (Araneae: Theridiidae)

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Abstract

Theridiidae typically construct a three-dimensional web often described as “irregular.” The web consists of a supporting structure and lines under tension termed gumfooted lines. We used automated methods to observe web construction in the theridiid Steatoda triangulosa under laboratory conditions. Web construction lasted several nights. After orientation, spiders built a three-dimensional structure of several threads radiating sideways and downward from the retreat. To build gumfooted lines, they started from the retreat, moved along a structural thread, then dropped down to attach the thread to the lower substrate. On returning, they coated the lowest part of the thread with viscid silk before moving up along the same thread back to the structural thread. They then continued moving along the same structural thread to drop down again to build the next gumfooted line. This behavior was continued until the spiders had built a series of gumfooted lines (a bout). There were regular intervals between the construction of two bouts. Thus, a single web included many bouts built in different stages. We show that gumfooted lines are not homologues to sticky web elements of orb-weavers and present new synapomorphic characters that support the monophyly of Theridiidae + Nesticidae and the monophyly of araneoid sheet web weavers. Further, the time allocation pattern for different behavioral stages and the fine structure of a gumfooted line are presented.