There are two major competing explanations for the counter-intuitive presence of bright coloration in certain orb-web spiders. Bright coloration could lure insect prey to the web vicinity, increasing the spider's foraging success. Alternatively, the markings could function as disruptive camouflage, making it difficult for the insect prey to distinguish spiders from background colour variation. We measured the prey capture rates of wasp spiders, Argiope bruennichi, that were blacked out, shielded from view using a leaf fragment, or left naturally coloured. Naturally coloured spiders caught over twice the number of prey as did either blacked-out or leaf-shielded spiders, and almost three times as many orthopteran prey. Spectrophotometer measurements suggest that the bright yellow bands on the spider's abdomen are visible to insect prey, but not the banding on the legs, which could disguise the spider's outline. Thus, our results provide strong support for the hypothesis that bright coloration in the wasp spider acts as a visual lure for insect prey and weak support for the hypothesis that the arrangement of the banding pattern across the spider's body disguises the presence of the spider on the web.
|Number of pages
|Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
|Published - 7 Jun 2008