The role of UV in crab spider signals: Effects on perception by prey and predators

Astrid M. Heiling*, Ken Cheng, Lars Chittka, Ann Goeth, Marie E. Herberstein

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    58 Citations (Scopus)


    Australian crab spiders Thomisus spectabilis sit on the petals of flowers and ambush prey such as honeybees. White-coloured T. spectabilis reflect in the UV (UV+ spiders) and previous research has shown that their presence, curiously, attracts honeybees to daisies. We applied an UV-absorber (Parsol®) to create UV-absorbing (UV-) spiders that did not reflect any light below 395 nm wavelength. These physical changes of visual signals generated by crab spiders caused honeybees to avoid flowers with UV- spiders on their petals. They also affected the perception of UV- spiders by honeybees and a potential avian predator (blue tits). Compared to UV+ spiders, UV- spiders produced less excitation of the UV-photoreceptors in honeybees and blue tits, which translated into a reduced UV-receptor contrast and a reduced overall colour contrast between UV- spiders and daisy petals. Our results reveal that a clean physical elimination of reflection in the UV range affects perception in predators and prey and ultimately changes the behaviour of prey.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)3925-3931
    Number of pages7
    JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
    Issue number20
    Publication statusPublished - Oct 2005


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