Optimal web investment in sub-optimal foraging conditions

Aaron M T Harmer*, Hanna Kokko, Marie E. Herberstein, Joshua S. Madin

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    4 Citations (Scopus)


    Orb web spiders sit at the centre of their approximately circular webs when waiting for prey and so face many of the same challenges as central-place foragers. Prey value decreases with distance from the hub as a function of prey escape time. The further from the hub that prey are intercepted, the longer it takes a spider to reach them and the greater chance they have of escaping. Several species of orb web spiders build vertically elongated ladder-like orb webs against tree trunks, rather than circular orb webs in the open. As ladder web spiders invest disproportionately more web area further from the hub, it is expected they will experience reduced prey gain per unit area of web investment compared to spiders that build circular webs. We developed a model to investigate how building webs in the space-limited microhabitat on tree trunks influences the optimal size, shape and net prey gain of arboricolous ladder webs. The model suggests that as horizontal space becomes more limited, optimal web shape becomes more elongated, and optimal web area decreases. This change in web geometry results in decreased net prey gain compared to webs built without space constraints. However, when space is limited, spiders can achieve higher net prey gain compared to building typical circular webs in the same limited space. Our model shows how spiders optimise web investment in sub-optimal conditions and can be used to understand foraging investment trade-offs in other central-place foragers faced with constrained foraging arenas.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)65-70
    Number of pages6
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - Jan 2012


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