Skip to main content

Tie them up tight: wrapping by Philoponella vicina spiders breaks, compresses and sometimes kills their prey

Abstract

We show that uloborid spiders, which lack the poison glands typical of nearly all other spiders, employ thousands of wrapping movements with their hind legs and up to hundreds of meters of silk line to make a shroud that applies substantial compressive force to their prey. Shrouds sometimes break the prey’s legs, buckle its compound eyes inward, or kill it outright. The compressive force apparently results from the summation of small tensions on sticky lines as they are applied to the prey package. Behavioral details indicate that wrapping is designed to compact prey; in turn, compaction probably functions to facilitate these spiders’ unusual method of feeding. This is the first demonstration that prey wrapping by spiders compacts and physically damages their prey, rather than simply restraining them.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3

References

  • Bartels M (1930) Ueber den Fressmechanismus und den chemischen. Sinn einiger Netzspinnen. Rev Suisse Zool 37:1–41

    Google Scholar 

  • Chapman RF (1998) The insects structure and function (4th edition). Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge, MA

    Google Scholar 

  • Coddington JA, Levi HW (1991) Systematics and evolution of spiders (Araneae). Ann Rev Ecolog Syst 22:565–592

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Collatz K-G (1987) Structure and function of the digestive tract. In: Nentwig W (ed) Ecophysiology of spiders. Springer, Berlin Heidelberg New York, pp 229–238

    Google Scholar 

  • Eberhard WG, Platnick N, Schuh RT (1993) The natural history and behavior of web parasites of the spider Tengella radiata: the spider Mysmenopsis tengellacompa sp. n. (Mysmenidae) and the bug Lipokophila eberhardi sp. n. (Plokiophilidae). Novitat Amer Mus Nat Hist 3065:1–17

    Google Scholar 

  • Eberhard WG, Barrantes G, Weng J-L (2006) The mystery of how spiders extract food from prey without masticating Bull. Brit Arachnol Soc

  • Fincke OM (1981) An association between two Neotropical spiders (Araneae, Uloboridae and Tengellidae). Biotropica 13:301–307

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Foelix R (1996) Biology of spiders. Harvard Univ. Press, Cambridge, MA

    Google Scholar 

  • Kaestner A (1968) Invertebrate Zoology vol II. (Translated and adapted by HW Levi, LR Levi). Wiley, New York

    Google Scholar 

  • Lubin YD (1986) Web function and prey capture behavior in Uloboridae. In: WA Shear (ed.) Spiders webs, behavior and evolution. Stanford Univ. Press, Stanford, CA, pp 132–171

    Google Scholar 

  • Opell BD (1979) Revision of the genera and tropical American species of the spider family Uloboridae. Bull Mus Comp Zool 148:443–549

    Google Scholar 

  • Opell BD (1988) Prey handling and food extraction by the triangle-web spider Hyptiotes cavatus (Uloboridae). J Arachnol 16:272–274

    Google Scholar 

  • Robinson MH, Olazarri J (1971) Units of behavior and complex sequences in the predatory behavior of Argiope argentata (Fabricius). Smithson Contrib Zool 65:1–36

    Google Scholar 

  • Zimmerman EW (1934) Untersuchen über den Bau des Mundhohlendaches der Gewebespinnen. Rev Suisse Zool 41:149–176

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

We thank Yael Lubin and Brent Opell for useful discussion, Maribelle Vargas for help with the SEM, and STRI and UCR for financial support. These experiments comply with the current laws of Costa Rica.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to William G. Eberhard.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Eberhard, W.G., Barrantes, G. & Weng, JL. Tie them up tight: wrapping by Philoponella vicina spiders breaks, compresses and sometimes kills their prey. Naturwissenschaften 93, 251–254 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00114-006-0094-1

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00114-006-0094-1

Keywords

  • Venom Gland
  • Spider Silk
  • Digestive Juice
  • Braconid Wasp
  • Individual Spider