Solving a novel confinement problem by spartaeine salticids that are predisposed to solve problems in the context of predation

  • Cross F
  • Jackson R
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Abstract

Intricate predatory strategies are widespread in the salticid subfamily Spartaeinae. The hypothesis we consider here is that the spartaeine species that are proficient at solving prey-capture problems are also proficient at solving novel problems. We used nine species from this subfamily in our experiments. Eight of these species (two Brettus, one Cocalus, three Cyrba, two Portia) are known for specialized invasion of other spiders' webs and for actively choosing other spiders as preferred prey ('araneophagy'). Except for Cocalus, these species also use trial and error to derive web-based signals with which they gain dynamic fine control of the resident spider's behaviour ('aggressive mimicry').The ninth species, Paracyrba wanlessi, is not araneophagic and instead specializes at preying on mosquitoes. We presented these nine species with a novel confinement problem that could be solved by trial and error. The test spider began each trial on an island in a tray of water, with an atoll surrounding the island. From the island, the spider could choose between two potential escape tactics (leap or swim), but we decided at random before the trial which tactic would fail and which tactic would achieve partial success. Our findings show that the seven aggressive-mimic species are proficient at solving the confinement problem by repeating 'correct' choices and by switching to the alternative tactic after making an 'incorrect' choice. However, as predicted, there was no evidence of C. gibbosus or P. wanlessi, the two non-aggressive-mimic species, solving the confinement problem. We discuss these findings in the context of an often-made distinction between domain-specific and domain-general cognition.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Brettus
  • Cocalus
  • Cognition
  • Cyrba
  • Paracyrba
  • Portia
  • Problem solving

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Authors

  • Fiona R. Cross

  • Robert R. Jackson

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