Kleptoparasites or commensals? Effects of Argyrodes antipodianus (Araneae: Theridiidae) on Nephila plumipes (Araneae: Tetragnathidae)
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Argyrodes antipodianus is a small kleptobiotic spider that steals prey from webs of the large orb-weaving spider Nephila plumipes, and sometimes removes the web itself. We used experiments in a greenhouse to test how the presence of the kleptobiont, differences in food availability, and web damage affected fitness of the web owner. After 49 days, N. plumipes with four A. antipodianus on their webs gained 55% less weight and relocated their webs 4.5 times as often as spiders with no kleptobionts. Increased web relocation and decreased weight gain may have resulted from reduced prey levels or from web damage by A. antipodianus. A second experiment demonstrated that hosts gained weight at the feeding rate used in the first experiment, but not at lower rates. Web relocation rate also varied with feeding rate, but in a non-linear manner. Web loss was evaluated in a separate experiment, by manually removing one-quarter of the web every 5 days for 30 days; however, neither weight gain nor rate of web relocation were affected. We conclude that A. antipodianus is a true kleptoparasite that can reduce the growth rate of its host N. plumipes, but that neither food theft nor web damage alone explain increased web relocation rates.
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