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Herbivore-induced plant volatiles do not affect settling decisions by synanthropic spiders

Abstract

An underlying assumption of optimal foraging models is that animals are behaviorally, morphologically, and physiologically adapted to maximize their net energy intake. Here we explored whether this concept applies to web-building spiders in a multi-trophic context. If a spider were to build her web next to herbivore-fed-on plants that signal the herbivores’ enemies for help by emitting herbivore-induced plant volatiles (HIPVs), that spider may maximize web captures in the short term. However, she would also risk predation by generalist predators that “listen” to signaling plants to find both herbivore and spider prey, likely resulting in lower overall reproductive fitness for the spider. We tested the hypothesis that HIPVs trigger avoidance responses by web-building spiders. We selected seven common HIPVs and one HIPV elicitor, and in two-choice olfactometer bioassays tested their effect on four synanthropic spider species (false black widow, Steatoda grossa; common cellar spider, Pholcus phalangioides; hobo spider, Eratigena agrestis; western black widow, Latrodectus hesperus). The 8-component HIPV/HIPV elicitor blend had a weak deterrent effect on S. grossa, but the effect did not extend to P. phalangioides, E. agrestis, and L. hesperus. Our findings imply that there was insufficient selection pressure for these spiders to recognize HIPVs in a multi-trophic context, where spiders themselves could become prey if generalist predators or spider-hunting parasitoid wasps were to respond to signaling plants.

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Acknowledgements

We thank Stephen Takács for helpful input and two anonymous reviewers for constructive comments. The research was supported by a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC)—Alexander Graham Bell Scholarship to AF and by an NSERC—Industrial Research Chair to GG, with BASF Canada Inc. and Scotts Canada Ltd. as the industrial sponsors.

Funding

The research was supported by a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC)—Alexander Graham Bell Scholarship to AF, and by an NSERC—Industrial Research Chair to GG, with BASF Canada Inc. and Scotts Canada Ltd. as the industrial sponsors. The funders had no role in the study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

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Contributions

Conceptualization: AF, GG; data curation: AF, SM; formal analysis: AF, SM; funding acquisition: GG; investigation: SM, RG; methodology: RG, AF; project administration: AF; Resources: GG, RG; supervision: GG; validation and visualization: AF; writing original draft: SM; writing review and editing: GG, AF.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Andreas Fischer.

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All authors state that there is no conflict of interest.

Additional information

Communicated by Günther Raspotnig.

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Fischer, A., MacLennan, S., Gries, R. et al. Herbivore-induced plant volatiles do not affect settling decisions by synanthropic spiders. Chemoecology 31, 201–208 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00049-021-00340-w

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00049-021-00340-w

Keywords

  • Synanthropic spiders
  • Herbivore-induced plant volatiles
  • Multi-trophic interaction
  • HIPV-based spider deterrents