Ecological adaptations of tree trunk residents: a comparative study of the camouflage of two-tailed spiders (Hersiliidae)

Project: Research

Project Details


Tree trunks receive little attention in research studies because of their apparent simplicity. However, they carry distinct and highly variable attributes that can lead to the evolution of ecological adaptations. An important trait that characterises the tree trunk habitat is limited cover. Therefore, tree trunk inhabitants are likely to be under selection to minimize their conspicuous appearance.
Spiders of the Hersiliidae family are camouflaged sit-and-wait hunters that permanently inhabit a wide range of trees in Australia. Their behavioural and physical traits are good examples of ecological adaptations, in this case, the camouflage specialisation associated with tree trunks.
My research seeks to integrate modern techniques for the study of visual ecology and the evolution of adaptive traits to tree trunks. I will conduct a comparative study of the camouflage of different species of spiders of the Hersiliidae family across the different species of the trees that they inhabit. The funding I am soliciting from the Endowment will provide 1) research assistance to record the natural distribution of Hersiliidae spiders and the traits of the tree trunks they live in and 2) support to conduct the analysis of the camouflage relative to the visual system of ecologically relevant observers.
By mixing field observations and experiments in semi-natural enclosures, my research will 1) assess important traits of trunks leading to the evolution of ecological adaptations of inhabitants of tree trunks, 2) highlight the underrated complexity of trunks as habitats, 3) expand the reach of current techniques applied in visual ecology studies.
Short titlecamouflage of two-tailed spiders
Effective start/end date1/08/191/08/20