, Volume 98, Issue 7, pp 593–603 | Cite as

Armoured spiderman: morphological and behavioural adaptations of a specialised araneophagous predator (Araneae: Palpimanidae)

  • Stano PekárEmail author
  • Jan Šobotník
  • Yael Lubin
Original Paper


In a predator–prey system where both intervenients come from the same taxon, one can expect a strong selection on behavioural and morphological traits involved in prey capture. For example, in specialised snake-eating snakes, the predator is unaffetced by the venom of the prey. We predicted that similar adaptations should have evolved in spider-eating (araneophagous) spiders. We investigated potential and actual prey of two Palpimanus spiders (P. gibbulus, P. orientalis) to support the prediction that these are araneophagous predators. Specific behavioural adaptations were investigated using a high-speed camera during staged encounters with prey, while morphological adaptations were investigated using electron microscopy. Both Palpimanus species captured a wide assortment of spider species from various guilds but also a few insect species. Analysis of the potential prey suggested that Palpimanus is a retreat-invading predator that actively searches for spiders that hide in a retreat. Behavioural capture adaptations include a slow, stealthy approach to the prey followed by a very fast attack. Morphological capture adaptations include scopulae on forelegs used in grabbing prey body parts, stout forelegs to hold the prey firmly, and an extremely thick cuticle all over the body preventing injury from a counter bite of the prey. Palpimanus overwhelmed prey that was more than 200% larger than itself. In trials with another araneophagous spider, Cyrba algerina (Salticidae), Palpimanus captured C. algerina in more than 90% of cases independent of the size ratio between the spiders. Evidence indicates that both Palpimanus species possesses remarkable adaptations that increase its efficiency in capturing spider prey.


Prey specificity Stenophagy Predatory behaviour Trophic niche Spider 



We would like to thank P. Cardoso, R. Jackson, S. Korenko, J. Král, M. Řezáč, and F. Šťáhlavský for providing Palpimanus spiders and three anonymous reviewers for giving useful comments to the manuscript. The study was supported by the E.U. Specific Support Action programme provided by the Jacob Blaustein Center for Scientific Cooperation given to SP and by the grant no. MSM0021622416 provided by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports of the Czech Republic. JŠ thanks go to project No. Z4 055 0506 realized at the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, Prague. This is publication no. 736 of the Mitrami Department of Desert Ecology.

Supplementary material

Video 1

Footage showing Palpimanus attacking a few prey spider species in real time speed. In the first piece of footage, Palpimanus is aiming to attack Pardosa. Notice the shinning scopulae on the forelegs. In the second piece of footage, Palpimanus captures an agelenid spider. Notice the instant grabbing of the prey body. In the third piece of footage, Palpimanus makes an unsuccessful attack on a zodariid spider. Notice the amputated leg of the zodariid attached to the Palpimanus scopulae on the forelegs after the attack. (MPG 36465 kb)

114_2011_804_MOESM2_ESM.m1v (1.9 mb)
Video 2 Footage showing Palpimanus attacking Pardosa at a slow rate (recorded at 500 frames s−1). Notice how Palpimanus grabs the prey leg by scopulae on both forelegs and moves the grabbed leg to its chelicera to deliver the bite. Finally, Palpimanus grabs the entire body of the prey with its forelegs and holds it in a basket-like fashion. (M1V 1970 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Botany and Zoology, Faculty of SciencesMasaryk UniversityBrnoCzech Republic
  2. 2.Institute of Organic Chemistry and BiochemistryPrague 6Czech Republic
  3. 3.Mitrani Department of Desert Ecology, Blaustein Institute for Desert ResearchBen Gurion UniversityBeer-ShevaIsrael

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