, 98:557 | Cite as

Loss of legs: is it or not a handicap for an orb-weaving spider?

  • Alain PasquetEmail author
  • Mylène Anotaux
  • Raymond Leborgne
Original Paper


Leg loss is a common phenomenon in spiders, and according to the species 5% to 40% of the adults can present at least one missing leg. There is no possibility of regeneration after adult moult and the animal must manage with its missing appendages until its death. With the loss of one or more legs, female orb-weaving spiders can be penalized twice: firstly, because the legs are necessary for web construction and secondly, the legs are essential for the control of the prey after its interception by the web. During development, spiders may be also penalized because regeneration has energetic costs that take away resources for survival, growth and reproduction. All these consequences should influence negatively the development of the spider and thus its fitness. We investigated the impact of leg loss in the orb-weaving spider, Zygiella x-notata by studying its frequency in a natural population and web building and prey capture behaviours in laboratory. In field populations, 9.5% to 13%, of the adult females presented the loss of one or more legs; the majority of individuals had lost only one leg (in 48% of cases, a first one). Leg loss seems to affect all the adult spiders, as there is no difference of mass between intact spiders and those with missing leg. Data obtained with laboratory-reared spiders, showed that the loss of legs due to the moult is rare (less than 1%). Considering changes in web design, spiders with missing legs decreased their silk investment, increased the distance between spiral turns but did not change the capture surface of the web. Under our laboratory experimental conditions, spiders with one or two lost legs did not present any difference in prey capture efficiency. In laboratory conditions, spiders with lost leg(s) did not show any difference in egg sac production or in longevity (adult lifespan) compared to intact spiders.


Autotomy Spider Zygiella x-notata Web construction Prey capture 



This study has been conducted at the H. Poincaré Nancy University. We thank J. Marchal and L. Bahans who helped us collect and rear spiders in 2008 and 2009. Many thanks also to Dr. Y. Lubin, Dr. C. Gilbert and anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alain Pasquet
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Mylène Anotaux
    • 1
    • 2
  • Raymond Leborgne
    • 2
  1. 1.Université de Strasbourg, IPHC, DEPE, CNRS UMR7178StrasbourgFrance
  2. 2.Laboratoire: Expression and Evolution des ComportementsUniversité Henri Poincaré, Nancy-UniversitéVandoeuvre-Les-NancyFrance

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