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Body size mediates the relationship between spider (Arachnida: Araneae) assemblage composition and prey consumption rate: results of a mesocosm experiment in the Yukon, Canada

  • Shaun TurneyEmail author
  • Chris M. Buddle
Community ecology – original research


Many ecological assemblages are undergoing rapid changes in composition and diversity, and changes at one trophic level can have direct and cascading effects on other trophic levels. Prey consumption typically increases with predator diversity due to niche complementarity and sampling effects. However, the effect of functional traits and interactions between predator species mean that the relationship is far from simple. In July 2016, we performed a series of experiments in the Yukon, Canada, to investigate the relationship between spider assemblage composition and prey consumption, with a focus on the wolf spider Pardosa lapponica (Thorell 1872). We carried out feeding trials, in which P. lapponica and other spider species were offered potential prey, as well as mesocosm experiments, in which we varied spider assemblage composition within small enclosures. We confirmed that P. lapponica is a generalist consumer, individual consumption rate increased with spider body size, and that intraguild predation is present. We found that prey consumption was greatest in the least diverse assemblage but consumption did increase with predator functional trait variation and biomass. The best model of prey consumption included predator assemblage composition, variation in body mass, biomass, and all interactions. The body size of a spider affects its trophic niche, energy requirements, and its interactions with other spiders. As a result, body size mediates the relationship between spider assemblage composition and prey consumption. A deeper understanding of the relationships between traits and functions will allow us to better predict the effect of species loss or gain on ecosystem functions.


Arthropod Community Ecosystem function Predator Tundra 



We thank Eric Ste-Marie for his assistance in the field and Gregor Fussmann and his graduate students for their helpful feedback on early drafts. This project was possible due to funding from the National Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada: A Discovery Grant and Northern Research Supplement to CMB and a Postgraduate Scholarship-Doctoral to ST. It was further supported by the W. Garfield Weston Award for Northern Research (Doctoral) from the Canadian Northern Studies Trust. We thank the Tr’ondek Hwech’in First Nation for allowing us to carry out our research on their land.

Author contribution statement

ST and CMB conceived the ideas and designed the methodology; ST collected and analysed the data and led the writing of the manuscript. All authors contributed critically to the drafts and gave final approval for publication.

Compliance with ethical standards

Data accessibility

Data (Online Resource files 1-3) are available on Dryad (link to be added here).

Ethical approval

This research was permitted under the Yukon Scientists and Explorer’s Act, License Number: 16-28SandE. Research activity within Tombstone Territorial Park (Sites 1 and 2) was permitted by a Research and Education Park Permit, Permit Number 15-RE-TP-02. Additionally, permission was sought and granted from the Tr’ondek Hwech’in First Nation. All applicable international, national, and institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (xlsx 26 kb)
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Supplementary material 2 (xlsx 18 kb)
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Supplementary material 3 (xlsx 11 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Natural Resource SciencesMcGill University Macdonald CampusSainte-Anne-de-BellevueCanada

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