Environmental conditions such as light level, background contrast and temperature might influence a spider's prey capture success and risk of predation. Thus it may often be advantageous for spiders to adjust web-building behaviour in response to variation in these environmental conditions. This hypothesis was examined in a study of the construction of webs and web decorations (conspicuous strands of silk at the hub of the web) of the orb-web spider Argiope keyserlingi. Web decorations are thought to have one or more separate functions. They may attract prey, deter predators or advertise the web to oncoming birds, thus preventing web damage. In this series of experiments, relationships between weather parameters and the construction of webs and web decorations were considered. In complementary laboratory experiments, A. keyserlingi spiders were exposed to two different light levels (700 and 90 lx), background contrasts (black and white) and temperature conditions (20 and 26°C). Of the available weather parameters, only temperature was significantly related to web decorating behaviour but not to web size. In the laboratory, temperature also influenced web-decorating behaviour, and spiders in dim light (700 lx) constructed larger webs and longer decorations. Background contrast did not significantly alter web size or web decorations. These data suggest that when prey availability is reduced at low temperatures, spiders may use web decorations to attract prey to the web. Similarly, in dim light, spiders may build more and larger decorations to increase the visual signal to approaching prey or to advertise the web to oncoming birds.
|Number of pages||7|
|Publication status||Published - Dec 2003|