Aggressive chemical mimicry of moth pheromones by a bolas spider: how does this specialist predator attract more than one species of prey?
The bolas spider, Mastophora hutchinsoni, attracts Lacinipolia renigera and Tetanolita mynesalis males by mimicking the female moth sex pheromones. However, as the prey species use completely different pheromone blends we conducted experiments to determine how this is accomplished by the predator. The periodicity of L. renigera mate-seeking activities occurs early in the scotophase, whereas male T. mynesalis are active late at night, corresponding with periods when these moths are captured by the spider. The pheromone blend of early-flying L. renigera interferes with attraction of late-flying T. mynesalis to its pheromone in a dose-dependent manner, suggesting the spider must always produce a single sub-optimal “compromise” blend for both species or that it adjusts its allomonal blend to optimize capture of the respective prey species at different times during the night. We delayed (L. renigera) or advanced (T. mynesalis) the periodicity of male activity through photoperiodic manipulation and found that the bolas spider attracted both prey species outside their normal activity windows. These results support the idea that bolas spiders produce components of both species at all times rather than producing the pheromone of each prey species at different times of the night. However, using coupled gas chromatography-electroantennography, we also demonstrated that the spider decreases its emission of the L. renigera pheromone over the course of the night. This modification should reduce the behavioral antagonism of the L. renigera pheromone on T. mynesalis males and increase the predator's success of attracting T. mynesalis during this prey's normal activity window late at night.