Asymmetry in spider orb webs: A result of physical constraints?

M. E. Herberstein*, A. M. Heiling

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

66 Citations (Scopus)


A typical feature of most vertical orb webs is that the upper web region is smaller arid contains less silk than the lower web region, creating an asymmetrical web. The degree of web asymmetry changes during the spider's development: small juveniles construct more symmetrical webs, but older and larger individuals decrease the upper web region. This implies that weight may control the extent of web asymmetry. Using two species, Argiope keyserlingi and Larinioides sclopetarius, we tested the effect of weight increase on web asymmetry by naturally increasing weight through feeding and by artificially adding lead weights to the abdomen of the spiders. Weight increase (natural or artificial) resulted in more asymmetric webs through a reduction of the upper web region. Added weight may interfere with spiral placement in the upper region, because the spider has to lift its abdomen above the carapace during the process. In the lower region, however, the position of the spider is mostly head up during spiral placement. Therefore, amongst other factors, weight and gravitational forces may be physical constraints during web construction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1241-1246
Number of pages6
JournalAnimal Behaviour
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1999
Externally publishedYes


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