This study focuses on the predatory capacity of four sympatric species of web- building spiders that inhabit coffee plantations in Southern Mexico: Gasteracantha cancriformis, Cyclosa caroli, and the morphologically similar species pair Leucauge mariana and L. venusta which were considered as one species group. The retention capa- bilities of the webs of these species and the incidence of prey capture and consumptionwere measured using eight types of insect prey belonging to the orders Coleoptera (1 species), Hymenoptera (3), Diptera (2) Lepidoptera (1) and Homoptera (1). The different characteristics of each prey such as body weight, body size, defensive behaviour, etc., were recorded. The incidence of prey retention, capture and consumption were significantly higher in G. cancriformis than in any of the other species. The lowest rates of retention, capture and consumption were observed in C. caroli, while L. mariana/venusta were intermediate in their predatory capabilities. Significant negative correlations between prey size and percent consumption were detected in L. mariana/venusta and in G. cancriformis; in both cases, large prey were less likely to be immediately consumed than small prey items. The results can be interpreted in the light of themorphological characteristics of the spiders. G. cancriformis possesses long legs and a carapace and appeared to have few difficulties to manipulate all types of prey. In contrast, C. caroli showed lesser abilities to manipulate and subdue aggressive prey items, perhaps due to the short leg length and unprotected body of this species. The consumption of prey items may be related to the predatory strategy of each spider. G. cancriformis constructs a new web every morning and prey storage was never observed. The absence of prey storage behaviour could explain why this species consumes prey soon after capture. In contrast, C. caroli constructs a permanent web and stores captured prey on a stabilimentum that may explain the very low incidence of immediate consumption of prey observed in this species.
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