Journal of Insect Behavior

, Volume 28, Issue 6, pp 635–650 | Cite as

Predatory Behaviour is Plastic According to Prey Difficulty in Naïve Spiderlings



Predatory behaviour is plastic towards different prey. However, prey differ in their defenses and predators should adjust in order to successfully subdue it. The variation in predatory behaviour could be either innate or developed from experiences. A feasible way to tease these factors apart is by studying inexperienced individuals. Here, I tested if the behaviour of inexperienced predators is different towards two prey types and if it correlates with the behaviour of the prey. I fed naïve spiderlings of the sheet weaver cellar spider Physocyclus globosus (Pholcidae) with either fruit flies or ants as prey (potential extremes in difficulty). I found that, regardless of prey type, individuals that exhibited active defensive behaviour (longer time twisting, moving legs and body segments) elicited a more intense predatory behaviour by the spiderlings (longer time touching and wrapping the prey, and giving more bites). Ants were often more difficult prey than flies, even damaging the spiderling’s leg in five trials. A successful attack to difficult prey was associated with increased handling time of additional silk needed to immobilize it. The differences in the predatory behaviour showed by P. globosus spiderlings suggest plasticity since their first attack. This plasticity would be adaptive for naïve predators of any taxa that encounter a wide diversity of prey.


Araneae Drosophila melanogaster Paratrechina longicornis prey–wrapping Physocyclus globosus Pholcidae 

Supplementary material

Online resource 1. Predatory behaviour of a newly hatched spiderling of Physocyclus globosus (Araneae: Pholcidae) during the first stages of the attack towards a Drosophila melanogaster wild type fruit fly or a Paratrechina longicornis worker ants. Cup diameter = 3 cm. (MP4 51,209 kb)


  1. Barrantes G, Eberhard WG (2007) The evolution of prey-wrapping behavior in spiders. J Nat Hist 41:1631–1658CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Barrantes G, Eberhard WG (2012) Extreme behavioral adjustments by an orb-web spider to restricted spaces. Ethology 118:1–12CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Barrantes G, Weng JL (2006) The prey attack behavior of Achaearanea tesselata (Araneae, Theridiidae). J Arachnol 34:456–466CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Blamires SJ, Chao I-C, Tso I-M (2010) Prey type, vibrations and handling interactively influence spider silk expression. J Exp Biol 213:3906–3910CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Blamires SJ, Chao I-C, Tso I-M (2011) Multiple prey cues induce foraging flexibility in a trap-building predator. Anim Behav 81:955–961CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Broom M, Ruxton GD (2005) You can run—or you can hide: optimal strategies for cryptic prey against pursuit predators. Behav Ecol 16:534–540CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Brown SG, Christenson TE (1983) The relationship between web parameters and spiderling predatory behavior in the orb-weaver, Nephila clavipes. Z Tierpsychol 63:241–250CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Caro T (2005) Antipredator defenses in birds and mammals. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  9. Clements R, Li D (2005) Regulation and non-toxicity of the spit from the pale spitting spider Scytodes pallida (Araneae: Scytodidae). Ethology 111:311–321CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. DiRienzo N, Pruitt JN, Hedrick AV (2013) The combined behavioral tendencies of predator and prey mediate the outcome of the interaction. Anim Behav 86:317–322CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Eberhard WG (1992) Notes on the ecology and behavior of Physocyclus globosus (Araneae, Pholcidae). Bull Brit Arachnol Soc 9:38–42Google Scholar
  12. Edmunds M (1974) Defence in animals: a survey of anti-predator defences. Longman, HarlowGoogle Scholar
  13. Edwards GB, Jackson RR (1994) The role of experience in the development of predatory behavior in Phidippius regius, a jumping spider (Araneae, Salticidae) from Florida. N Zeal J Zool 21:269–277CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Escalante I (2013) Ontogenetic and sexual differences in exploration and web construction in the spider Physocyclus globosus (Araneae: Pholcidae). Arachnology 16:61–68CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Escalante I, Masís-Calvo M (2014) The absence of gumfoot threads in webs of early juveniles and males of Physocyclus globosus (Pholcidae) is not associated with spigot morphology. Arachnology 16:214–218CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Escalante I, Aisenberg A, Costa FG (2015) Risky behaviors by the host could favor araneophagy of the spitting spider Scytodes globula on the hacklemesh weaver Metaltella simoni. J Ethol 33:125–136CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Forbes LS (1989) Prey defences and predator handling behaviour: the dangerous prey hypothesis. Oikos 55:155–158CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Heiling AM, Herberstein ME (1999) The role of experience in web-building spiders (Araneidae). Anim Cogn 2:171–177CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Higgins L (2007) Juvenile Nephila (Araneae, Nephilidae) use various attacks strategies for novel prey. J Arachnol 35:530–534CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Jakob EM (1991) Costs and benefits of group living for pholcid spiderlings: losing food, saving silk. Anim Behav 41:711–722CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Jakob EM (1994) Contests over prey by group-living pholcids (Holocnemus pluchei). J Arachnol 22:39–45Google Scholar
  22. Jakob EM, Skow C, Long S (2011) Plasticity, learning and cognition. In: Herberstein ME (ed) Spider behavior. Flexibility and versatility. Cambridge Univ. Press, New York, pp. 307–347CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Japyassú HF, Macagnan CR (2004) Fishing for prey: the evolution of a new predatory tactic among spiders (Araneae, Pholcidae). Rev Etol 6:79–94Google Scholar
  24. Jeschke J, Tollrian R (2000) Density-dependent effects of prey defences. Oecologia 123:391–396CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Johnson SA, Jakob EM (1999) Leg autotomy in a spider has minimal costs in competitive ability and development. Anim Behav 57:957–965CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. Kirchner W, Opderbeck M (1990) Beuteerwerb, giftwirkung und nahrungsaufnahme bei der zitterspinne Pholcus phalangoides (Araneae, Pholcidae). Abhand Verhandlungen des Naturwissenschaftlichen Vereins in Hamburg (NF) 31(32):15–45Google Scholar
  27. Klärner D, Barth FG (1982) Vibratory signals and prey capture in orb-weaving spiders (Zygiella x-notata, Nephila clavipes; Araneidae). J Comp Physiol A 148:445–455CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Kosiba S, Allen P, Barrantes G (2012) Feeding effectiveness of Megaphobema mesomelas (Araneae, Theraphosidae) on two prey types. Bull Br Arachnol Soc 15:228–230CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Landolfa MA, Barth FG (1996) Vibrations in the orb web of the spider Nephila clavipes: cues for discrimination and orientation. J Comp Physiol A 179:493–508CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Líznarová E, Pekár S (2013) Dangerous prey is associated with a type 4 functional response in spiders. Anim Behav 85:1183–1190CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Martins-García CR, Japyassú HF (2005) Estereotipia e plasticidade na seqüencia predatória de Theridion evexum Keyserling 1884 (Araneae: Theriididae). Biot Neotrop 5:27–43CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Moran MD (2003) Arguments for rejecting the sequential bonferroni in ecological studies. Oikos 100:403–405CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Morse DH (2000) The effect of experience on the hunting success of newly emerged spiderlings. Anim Behav 60:827–835CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  34. Nakagawa S (2004) A farewell to benferroni: the problem of low statistical power and publication bias. Behav Ecol 15:1044–1045CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Nelson XJ, Jackson RR (2011) Flexibility in the foraging strategies of spiders. In: Herbestein ME (ed) Spider behavior. Flexibility and versatility. Cambridge Univ. Press, New York, pp. 38–56Google Scholar
  36. Nentwig W (1983) The prey of web-building spiders compared with feeding experiments (Araneae: Araneidae, Lyniphiidae, Pholcidae, Agelenidae). Oecologia 56:132–139CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Nonacs P, Blumstein DT (2010) Predation risk and behavioral life history. In: Westneat DF, Cox CW (eds) Evolutionary behavioral ecology. Oxford University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  38. Ottoni EB (2000) EthoLog 2.2 - a tool for the transcription and timing of behavior observation sessions. Behav Res Methods Instrum Comput 32:446–449CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  39. Pekár S (2009) Capture efficiency of an ant-eating spider, Zodariellum asiaticum (Araneae: Zodariidae), from Kazakhstan. J Arachnol 27:338–391Google Scholar
  40. Peretti AV, Eberhard WG, Briceño RD (2006) Copulatory dialogue: female spiders sing during copulation to influence male genitalic movements. Anim Behav 72:413–241CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Pruitt JN, Stachowicz JJ, Sih A (2012) Behavioral types of predator and prey jointly determine prey survival: potential implications for the maintenance of within-species behavioral variation. Am Nat 179:217–227CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  42. Rice W (1989) Analyzing tables of statistical tests. Evolution 43:223–225CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Robinson MH, Olizarri J (1971) Units of behavior and complex sequences in the predatory behavior of Argiope argentata (Fabricius): (Araneae: Araneidae). Sm C Zool 65:1–36CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Shettleworth SJ (2010) Cognition, evolution, and behavior 2nd edn. Oxford University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  45. Soley FG, Taylor PW (2013) Ploys and counterploys of assassin bug and their dangerous spider prey. Behaviour 150:397–425Google Scholar
  46. Théry M, Casas J (2002) Predator and prey views of spider camouflage. Nature 415:133CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  47. Venner S, Pasquet A, Leborgne R (2000) Web-building behavior in the orb-weaving spider Zygella x-notata: influence of experience. Anim Behav 59:603–611CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  48. Viera C (1995) Discriminación por Metepeira seditiosa (Keyserling) (Araneae, Araneidae) en condiciones experimentales sobre dos presas frecuentes en el medio. J Arachnol 23:17–24Google Scholar
  49. West-Eberhard MJ (2003) Developmental plasticity and evolution. Oxford University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Escuela de BiologíaUniversidad de Costa RicaSan JoséCosta Rica
  2. 2.Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and ManagementUniversity of California, BerkeleyBerkeleyUSA

Personalised recommendations