Adhesive foot pads: An adaptation to climbing? An ecological survey in hunting spiders

Jonas O. Wolff*, Stanislav N. Gorb

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


Hairy pads relying on dry adhesion are fascinating structures that convergently evolved among spiders and lizards. Numerous studies underline the functional aspects leading to their strong adhesion to smooth surfaces, but rarely has their role been studied in the context of natural habitats and surfaces that animals are faced with. In hunting spiders, the hairy foot pads (claw tufts) underneath the paired claws are assumed to be an adaptation to a climbing lifestyle, particularly on smooth plant surfaces. However, surfaces that are too smooth for claws to generate a sufficient grip are rather rare in natural habitats and above-ground habitats are occupied by hunting spiders both with and without claw tufts. In this study we estimated the proportion of claw tuft-bearing hunting spiders (ct+ ratio) among microhabitat-specific assemblages by conducting both a field study and a meta-analysis approach. The effect of surface characteristics, structure fragmentation and altitude of the microhabitat niche on the ct+ ratio was analyzed. We hypothesized that the ct+ ratio will be higher in (i) hunting spider assemblages obtained from microhabitats above the ground than from those at the ground and (ii) in hunting spider assemblages obtained from microhabitats with smoother surfaces (tree foliage) than those with rougher surfaces (barks, stones), and lower in (iii) hunting spider assemblages obtained from microhabitats with more fragmented structures (small leaves) than in those with comparable but less fragmented structures (large leaves). We found the ct+ ratio to be significantly affected by the microhabitat's distance from the ground, whereas surface characteristics and fragmentation of the substrates were of minor importance. This suggests that claw tufts are highly beneficial when the microhabitat's height exceeds a value where the additional pad-related costs are exceeded by the costs of dropping. We assume the benefit to be mainly due to gaining a high safety factor at a lower energy demand if compared to alternative attachment devices (claws, silk). The previously presumed enhanced access to new microhabitat sites may play only a minor role as hunting spiders without claw tufts are present in most microhabitats.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-7
Number of pages7
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Adhesion
  • Araneae
  • Attachment device
  • Claw tuft
  • Spider locomotion


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