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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008 Sep 30;105(39):14903-7. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0807107105. Epub 2008 Sep 4.

Self-made shelters protect spiders from predation.

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  • 1School of Marine and Tropical Biology, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland 4811, Australia.


Many animals modify their environments, apparently to reduce predation risk, but the success of such endeavors, and their impact on the density and distribution of populations, are rarely rigorously demonstrated. We staged a manipulative experiment to assess the effectiveness of self-made shelters by web spiders as protection from natural enemies. Scincid lizards were included or excluded from 21 replicated 200-m(2) plots, and spiders therein were classified as exposed or sheltered, depending on whether they were uncovered in their web or hidden in cocoons, leaves/debris, or burrows. We found that exposed spiders were greatly affected by the presence of predatory scincid lizards, whereas sheltered spiders were not. More specifically, lizards, which forage close to the ground, reduced the abundance of exposed spiders by two-thirds but had no effect on the abundance of sheltered spiders. Sheltered spiders were able to avoid predation and share space with lizards, suggesting that shelter construction is a mechanism for reducing predation risk and has important population consequences.

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