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Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2009 Feb 27;364(1516):471-80. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2008.0212.

The multiple disguises of spiders: web colour and decorations, body colour and movement.

Author information

  • 1UMR 7179, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, 1 avenue du Petit Château, 91800 Brunoy, France. thery@mnhn.fr

Abstract

Diverse functions have been assigned to the visual appearance of webs, spiders and web decorations, including prey attraction, predator deterrence and camouflage. Here, we review the pertinent literature, focusing on potential camouflage and mimicry. Webs are often difficult to detect in a heterogeneous visual environment. Static and dynamic web distortions are used to escape visual detection by prey, although particular silk may also attract prey. Recent work using physiological models of vision taking into account visual environments rarely supports the hypothesis of spider camouflage by decorations, but most often the prey attraction and predator confusion hypotheses. Similarly, visual modelling shows that spider coloration is effective in attracting prey but not in conveying camouflage. Camouflage through colour change might be used by particular crab spiders to hide from predator or prey on flowers of different coloration. However, results obtained on a non-cryptic crab spider suggest that an alternative function of pigmentation may be to avoid UV photodamage through the transparent cuticle. Numerous species are clearly efficient locomotory mimics of ants, particularly in the eyes of their predators. We close our paper by highlighting gaps in our knowledge.

PMID:
18990672
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC2674075
Free PMC Article

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