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Two coinhabitants visually lure prey to host territory through a shared conspicuous trait

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Visual prey luring in animals is typically achieved by brightly colored body parts or excretions of the signal sender, and using signals from other organisms is rarely reported. However, certain species of kleptoparasitic Argyrodes spiders usually reside in the webs of Cyrtophora spiders, and their brightly colored bodies have been demonstrated to serve as a visual lure that attracts prey to host webs. The golden orb-web spider Nephila pilipes spins giant orb webs and also attracts web coinhabitants such as mate-seeking males and kleptoparasitic spider Argyrodes miniaceus. These two types of spiders have similar orange-red body coloration, leading us to investigate the function of this shared trait by manipulating their body color and recording the response of prey insects in the field using video cameras. Our results showed that, in both diurnal and nocturnal conditions, female N. pilipes webs with naturally colored male N. pilipes and A. miniaceus had a significantly higher prey attraction rate than those with body color altered coinhabitants. Specifically, A. miniaceus lure more prey at nighttime. These results indicate that the conspicuously colored web coinhabitants may potentially bring foraging benefits to the hosts through prey luring and provide new perspectives on the ecology and evolution of symbiotic relationships between animals.

Significance statement

It has been known that the body coloration of some spiders can lure prey to their webs, and even some kleptoparasitic Argyrodes spiders can lure prey to their hosts’ webs. However, whether the conspicuous body coloration of mate-seeking males plays any role remains untested. We showed for the first time that the orange-red body coloration shared by male Nephila pilipes and kleptoparasitic Argyrodes miniaceus spiders inhabiting webs of female N. pilipes can visually lure prey. Findings of this study can potentially strengthen our current understanding of the function of body coloration of spiders, shed light on evolution of spider body coloration, and provide new perspectives on symbiotic relationships between animals.

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The study was funded by a Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST, Taiwan) grant (MOST-102–2311-B-029–001-MY3) to I.M.T and two MOST postdoctoral grants (MOST 103–2811-B-029–001, 103–2811-B-029–003) to S. Z.

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Authors and Affiliations



SZ and IMT designed research; SZ, YCL, and HHC performed research; SZ and CPL analyzed data; SZ, DP, and IMT wrote the paper.

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Correspondence to I.-Min Tso.

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All spiders were treated in accordance with the “research ethics and animal treatment” legal requirements of Tunghai University, where the study was carried out.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Communicated By E. M. Jakob

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Zhang, S., Leu, YC., Chou, HH. et al. Two coinhabitants visually lure prey to host territory through a shared conspicuous trait. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 76, 145 (2022).

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