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Anim Cogn. 2012 Jul;15(4):699-710. doi: 10.1007/s10071-012-0498-6. Epub 2012 Apr 21.

The role of numerical competence in a specialized predatory strategy of an araneophagic spider.

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School of Biological Sciences, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand.


Although a wide range of vertebrates have been considered in research on numerical competence, little is known about the role of number-related decisions in the predatory strategies of invertebrates. Here, we investigate how numerical competence is expressed in a highly specialized predatory strategy adopted by the small juveniles of Portia africana when practicing communal predation, with the prey being another spider, Oecobius amboseli. Two or more P. africana juveniles sometimes settle by the same oecobiid nest and then share the meal after one individual captures the oecobiid. Experiments were designed to clarify how these predators use number-related cues in conjunction with non-numerical cues when deciding whether to settle at a nest. We used lures (dead spiders positioned in lifelike posture) arranged in a series of 24 different scenes defined by the type, configuration and especially number of lures. On the whole, our findings suggest that P. africana juveniles base settling decisions on the specific number of already settled conspecific juveniles at the nest and express a preference for settling when the number is one instead of zero, two or three. By varying the size of the already settled juveniles and their positions around the nest, we show that factors related to continuous variables and stimulus configuration are unlikely explanations for our findings.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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