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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: BIOLOGICALLY BASED PEST MANAGEMENT FOR FIELD AND GREENHOUSE CROPS Title: Odour-based recognition of nectar in cursorial spiders

Authors
item Patt, Joseph
item Pfannenstiel, Robert

Submitted to: Entomologia Experimentalis et Applicata
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: December 18, 2007
Publication Date: June 10, 2008
Citation: Patt, J.M., Pfannenstiel, R.S. 2008. Odour-based recognition of nectar in cursorial spiders. Entomologia Experimentalis et Applicata. 127:64-71.

Interpretive Summary: Increasingly, carnivorous insects and mites are known to feed on plant-derived foods, such as honeydew, pollen, and nectar. Consumption of sugars from non-prey food in spiders that ambush or stalk their prey also appears to be more widespread than previously thought. This is not surprising, since ingestion of plant-based sugars can increase their levels of activity, survivorship, and reproduction, especially when prey are scarce. However, the sensory and behavioral means by which spiders recognize and locate nectaries or honeydew is unknown. Here we show, for the first time, that a nectarivorous spider (Hibana futilis) is behaviorally adept at recognizing chemical stimuli associated with non-prey food such as nectar and honeydew. Using controlled behavioral assays, we found that localized searching behavior was induced following ingestion of minute amounts of artificial nectar. We also showed that searching spiders responded innately to nectar odor, and that they could be conditioned to associate novel odor stimuli with the presence of nectar. H. futilis stalks and runs at its prey; spiders that forage in this manner are often referred to as a ‘hunting’ or ‘prowling’ spiders. Hunting spiders typically respond to a variety of visual and vibrational stimuli when seeking prey or mates. They apparently also possess a programmed behavioral repertoire for locating nectar sources and rely upon olfactory and gustatory stimuli to do so.

Technical Abstract: Increasingly, carnivorous arthropods are known to feed on plant-derived foods, such as honeydew, pollen, and nectar. Consumption of saccharides from non-prey food in spiders that ambush or stalk their prey also appears to be more widespread than previously thought. This is not surprising, since ingestion of plant-based saccharides can increase their levels of activity, survivorship, and reproduction, especially when prey are scarce. However, the sensory and behavioural means by which spiders recognize and locate nectaries or honeydew is unknown. Here we show, for the first time, that a nectarivorous spider (Hibana futilis) is behaviorally adept at recognizing chemical stimuli associated with non-prey food such as nectar and honeydew. Using controlled behavioral assays, we found that localized searching behavior was induced following ingestion of minute amounts of artificial nectar. We also showed that searching spiders responded innately to nectar odor, and that they could be conditioned to associate novel odour stimuli with the presence of nectar. H. futilis stalks and runs at its prey; spiders that forage in this manner are often referred to as a ‘hunting’ or ‘prowling’ spiders. Hunting spiders typically respond to a variety of visual and vibrational stimuli when seeking prey or mates. They apparently also possess a programmed behavioral repertoire for locating nectar sources and rely upon olfactory and gustatory stimuli to do so.

Last Modified: 8/1/2014
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