Evol Ecol Res 1: 503-516 (1999)     Full PDF if your library subscribes.

Redesigning spider webs: Stickiness, capture area and the evolution of modern orb-webs

Brent D. Opell

Department of Biology, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, VA 24061-0406, USA

e-mail: bopell@vt.edu


An orb-web’s ability to capture insects is enhanced by both increased capture area and increased stickiness per capture area. As spider size limits the amount of material that an orb-weaver can invest in the sticky prey capture threads of its web, these two strategies are in conflict. The origin of modern orb-weaving spiders of the large superfamily Araneoidea was associated with the origin of adhesive capture threads. These threads achieve their stickiness at a greater material economy than do the primitive cribellar capture threads found in orb-webs produced by the superfamily Deinopoidea. Consequently, araneoid orb-weavers have a greater amount of stickiness at their disposal. A comparison of orb-webs produced by these sister clades shows that araneoids expend this stickiness in a manner consistent with the hypothesis that increased stickiness per capture area is favoured over increased capture area. Araneoid orb-webs have, relative to spider weight, smaller capture areas than deinopoid orb-webs and, relative to web capture area, greater total stickinesses than deinopoid orb-webs. The stickiness per capture area of araneoid orb-webs is greater than that of deinopoid orb-webs and the spacing of capture thread spirals in araneoid orb-webs is equal to or less than that in deinopoid orb-webs. Thus, araneoid orb-webs are better equipped than deinopoid orb-webs to retain insects that strike the web. This increases the ability of araneoid spiders to subdue ensnared insects before they escape from the web and may favour the capture of larger prey.

Keywords: adhesive thread, Araneidae, capture thread, cribellar thread, orb-web, thread stickiness, Tetragnathidae, Uloboridae.

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        © 1999 Brett D. Opell. All EER articles are copyrighted by their authors. All authors endorse, permit and license Evolutionary Ecology Ltd. to grant its subscribing institutions/libraries the copying privileges specified below without additional consideration or payment to them or to Evolutionary Ecology, Ltd. These endorsements, in writing, are on file in the office of Evolutionary Ecology, Ltd. Consult authors for permission to use any portion of their work in derivative works, compilations or to distribute their work in any commercial manner.

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