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


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.

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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.

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Correspondence to William G. Eberhard.

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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).

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