Zoological Studies

Vol. 53, 2014

Does building activity influence web construction and web characteristics in the orb-web spider Zygiella x-notata (Araneae, Araneidae)?

Alain Pasquet1*, Julia Marchal2, Mylène Anotaux1 and Raymond Leborgne1

1Faculté des Sciences et Technologies, Université de Lorraine, BP 239, Vandoeuvre les Nancy Cedex 54506, France
2Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, UMR 7179, Brunoy, France

Background: Very few studies have investigated the influence of regular practice of a stereotyped behaviour on its future expression. In spiders, orb-web construction is a succession of repetitive and stereotyped behaviours and is a relevant model for such study. This study examined if preventing spiders from building influences their future constructions. Spiders were caught in the field and brought back to the laboratory where they were exposed to two different situations; half were maintained in small boxes where web building was not possible, and half were maintained in large enclosures where they could build orb-webs. All spiders were tested twice: 1 week after their capture (test 1)
and 12 weeks later (test 2). Their building performance was evaluated by examining silk investment (length of the capture spiral, number of radii, of spiral turns, length of the lower part of the web), web design (mesh height, asymmetry) and the frequency of anomalies in the web.

There was no difference in web constructions between the two groups in either test. However, the rearing conditions seemed to affect two parameters: the length of the lower part of the web and the asymmetry were higher for spiders reared in small boxes. We did find also, an overall decrease with time in silk investment (length of the capture spiral, capture area) in both groups as well as an increase in the number of anomalies of the capture spiral from tests 1 to 2.
Conclusions: These results suggest that regular web construction does not have a strong effect on web structure or silk investment, but spider age did affect parameters in the two groups. Thus, the lack of practice over a large portion of a spider's adult life does not affect a stereotyped behaviour such as the building of an orb-web.

Key words: Stereotyped behaviours; Experience; Spiders; Web characteristics.

*Correspondence: E-mail: alain.pasquet@univ-lorraine.fr