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Many paths, one destination: mapping the movements of a kleptoparasitic spider on the host’s web

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Kleptoparasitic spiders live and forage in the webs of other spiders. Using vibratory cues generated by the host spider during prey capture, they leave their resting positions in the upper peripheries of the host web and move towards the centre of the web where they feed along with the host spider or steal small pieces of prey. While the triggers for initiating the foraging raids are known, there is little information about the fine-scale trajectory dynamics in this model system. We mapped the movement of the kleptoparasite Argyrodes elevatus in the web of the host Trichonephila clavipes. We filmed the movement of the kleptoparasite spiders and quantified the trajectory shape, speed, heading directions and path revisitation. Our results show that kleptoparasitic spider movement is spatially structured, with higher levels of speed at the peripheries and slower in the centre of the web. We found a high level of variation in trajectory shapes between individuals. We found that the majority of heading orientations were away from the hub suggesting that detouring or repeated approaches are an essential component of kleptoparasite movement strategies. Our results of the revisitation rate also confirm this pattern, where locations close to the hub were revisited more often than in the periphery. The kleptoparasite–host spider system is a promising model to study fine-scale movement patterns in small bounded spaces.

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We thank Carlos Carmona Bonilla and Diana Debernardi Hernández for help in data collection and care of spiders and Yann Henaut for support. We thank Luis Quijano Cuervo for identification of the kleptoparasite species. RRG was supported by a M.Sc. scholarship from CONACyT, Mexico. This study was partially supported by a travelling fellowship from the Company of Biologists to DR. HTM acknowledges support from CONACyT Problemas Nacionales Grant # 5150 and Fronteras de la Ciencia Grant # 425854.

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Authors and Affiliations



Data collection—RRG. Writing original draft—DR. Writing and revision—DR, RRG, AN and HTM. Analysis—DR, RRG, AN and HTM. Visualisation—DR, RRG, AN and HTM. Conceptualisation—DR. Project administration—DR.

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Correspondence to Dinesh Rao.

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The authors declare they have no conflict of interests. All spiders were released after experiments. Data will be made available on request.

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Supplementary Information

Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.

S1: Animated time lapse movie of a single kleptoparasite trajectory overlaid on the image of a host web. Trailing colours in the dot represent speed of the kleptoparasite. The movie is available at this location.

S2: All distance profile curves of the kleptoparasites as they approached the hub.

S3: Heading direction histograms for all trajectories

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Rosales-García, R., Tapia-McClung, H., Narendra, A. et al. Many paths, one destination: mapping the movements of a kleptoparasitic spider on the host’s web. J Comp Physiol A 207, 293–301 (2021).

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