The role of experience in web-building spiders (Araneidae)


A typical feature of vertical orb-webs is the ‘top/bottom’ asymmetry, where the lower web region is larger than the upper web region. This asymmetry may improve prey capture success, because, sitting in the hub of the web, a spider can reach prey entangled below the hub faster than prey entangled in the area above the hub. While web asymmetry is known to vary intraspecifically, we tested if this variation also exists at the individual level and whether it is the result of experience, using two orb-web spider species, Argiope keyserlingi and Larinioides sclopetarius. The results reveal that experienced web-building spiders constructed more asymmetric webs than conspecifics deprived of any prior building experience over a period of several months. Experienced individuals invested more silk material into the web region below the hub, which covered a larger area. Moreover, web asymmetry was also influenced by previous prey capture experiences, as spiders increased the lower region of the web if it intercepted the most prey over a period of 6 days. Consequently, spiders may be able to use long-term web-building experience as well as short-term prey capture experience to build better traps. In contrast to previous views of spiders, experience can contribute to intraspecific as well as to individual variations in web design.

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Received: 1 March 1999 / Accepted after revision: 18 August 1999

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Heiling, A., Herberstein, M. The role of experience in web-building spiders (Araneidae). Anim Cogn 2, 171–177 (1999).

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  • Key words Web asymmetry
  • Behaviour
  • Orb-web
  • Argiope keyserlingi
  • Larinioides sclopetarius