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J Exp Biol. 2004 Jul;207(Pt 15):2631-7.

Colourful orb-weaving spiders, Nephila pilipes, through a bee's eyes.

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Department of Biology, Tunghai University, Taichung 407, Taiwan.


Many orb-weaving spiders in the tropics forage in open sites during the day and some of them have both bright and dark colourations. The conspicuous UV-reflective colour markings of these spiders have been reported to be attractive to visually oriented prey and thus could increase the spiders' foraging success. Using a combination of field and laboratory studies, we examine whether or not the body colouration of orb-weaving spiders exhibits optical properties that are attractive to insect prey from the viewpoint of insect visual physiology. We compared the prey interception rates and colour contrasts of the typical and melanic morphs of the giant wood spider, Nephila pilipes. Results of the field study showed that the typical morph caught significantly more insects than the melanic morph. Colour contrasts calculated from spectral reflectances of the background and body surface of spiders showed that the brightly coloured body parts of the typical morph exhibited rather high values, but those of the dark body parts were below the discrimination threshold. The differential colour contrasts of body parts generated a visual signal unlike that of a spider but rather like certain forms of food resources. On the other hand, the melanic morphs did not have bright colouration and the colour contrasts of every part of the body were significantly higher than the threshold, making the contour of spiders quite clear to bees.

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