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Predation strategy of the brown widow spider Latrodectus geometricus Koch, 1841 against prey with different defensive mechanisms


Predators, such as spiders, may modulate their predatory behavior according to the defensive mechanisms of their prey. This study analyzed the prey capture behavior of Latrodectus geometricus spiders, specifically through the parameter’s acceptance of the prey, immobilization time, and bitten areas. A total of 80 adult female spiders were used, and they were fed cockroach nymphs and fasted for seven days. After this period, spiders were divided into four groups where prey with different defensive mechanisms were offered: cricket nymphs, ants, juvenile scorpions, and cockroach nymphs. Spiders were successful in catching prey in 86.25% of the observations, with crickets and scorpions being the prey having the highest and lowest acceptance rates, respectively. Our results showed that crickets and cockroaches were the prey most rapidly immobilized, and scorpions were the prey that required more time to be immobilized. These results indicate that L. geometricus individuals prefer prey with more fragile defenses. We also observed that spiders prefer to bite areas away from the defensive mechanisms of dangerous prey. Thus, our findings suggest that the spider L. geometricus possesses the ability to modulate its predatory behavior according to the defensive mechanism of its prey.

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We are grateful to Fundação de Amparo à Ciência e Tecnologia do Estado de Pernambuco-FACEPE for postdoctoral scholarship (BFP-0121-2.05/20) to André Lira. We are also grateful to Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior for granting a postdoctoral (PNPD PPG-Eco-INPA) to Renato Salomão. Two anonymous reviewers kindly provided useful comments to improve this manuscript.

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All authors contribute to the manuscript. AL and GM designed the study. LG and AL collected the spiders and conducted experiments. LG drafted manuscript. RS analysed data and performed the figures. All authors read and revised the submitted manuscript.

Conflict of interest Experiments using invertebrate animals conducted in Brazil do not require approval by the Ethics Committees, as established by the Brazilian Council for the Control of Animal Experimentation (CONCEA) (Law 11.794/08, § 3).

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Correspondence to Luiza E. A. Gonzaga.

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Gonzaga, L.E.A., Salomão, R.P., Moura, G.J.B. et al. Predation strategy of the brown widow spider Latrodectus geometricus Koch, 1841 against prey with different defensive mechanisms. J Ethol 40, 159–165 (2022).

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  • Theriididae
  • Predatory versalitiliy
  • Behavioral plasticity