The Science of Nature

, 102:8 | Cite as

Innate prey preference overridden by familiarisation with detrimental prey in a specialised myrmecophagous predator

  • Stano Pekár
  • Manuel Cárdenas
Original Paper


Prey-specialised spiders often do not have brood care and may not deposit eggs in the proximity of the preferred prey. Thus, naïve spiderlings are left to their own to find their focal prey. Our aim was to reveal whether the choice of a specific prey is innate and whether familiarisation with a certain prey will condition prey choice. We used the myrmecophagous spider Euryopis episinoides, which specialises on Messor ants. It finds ants using chemical cues deposited on the substrate. Naïve spiderlings were offered chemical cues from Messor and Myrmica ants and Drosophila flies. They chose significantly more chemical cues from Messor ants than those from Drosophila flies. Then spiderlings were assigned to three prey treatments: fed with Messor ants only (optimal prey), fed with Myrmica ants only (suboptimal prey) or fed with Drosophila flies only (detrimental prey) until adulthood. Every 2 weeks, all spiders from all treatments were offered chemical cues from the three prey types and the frequency of choice and latency to assuming a posture were recorded. Experienced spiderlings preferred chemical cues from the prey in which they were raised. They suffered high mortality on Drosophila flies and attained largest size on the optimal prey. We show here that majority of spiderlings are born with an innate preference to their focal prey, which can be altered by familiarisation with alternative prey, irrespective of whether such a prey is beneficial.


Myrmecophagy Chemical stimuli Fitness Imprinting Olfaction 



We would like to thank the three anonymous reviewers for the useful comments. This work was supported by the programme “Employment of newly graduated doctors of science for scientific excellence” (CZ.1.07/2.3.00/30.009) co-financed from the European Social Fund and the state budget of the Czech Republic.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Botany and Zoology, Faculty of ScienceMasaryk UniversityBrnoCzech Republic

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