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Environ Entomol. 2012 Dec;41(6):1474-80. doi: 10.1603/EN12126.

Flee or fight: ontogenetic changes in the behavior of cobweb spiders in encounters with spider-hunting wasps.

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  • 1School of Biology, Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Trivandrum, India.


An animal's body size plays a predominant role in shaping its interspecific interactions, and, in encounters between two predators, often determines which shall be predator and which shall be prey. Spiders are top predators of insects, yet can fall prey to mud-dauber wasps that provision their larval nests with paralyzed spiders. Here we examined predator-prey interactions between Chalybion californicum (Saussure) (Sphecidae), a mud-dauber wasp, and Parasteatoda tepidariorum C. L. Koch (Theridiidae), a cobweb spider. We examined whether a spider's size influences its response to an attacking wasp, and report a size-dependent change in spider behavior: small-sized spiders fled, whereas medium- and large-sized spiders fought in response to wasp attacks. From the wasps' perspective, we examined whether spider size influences a wasp's hunting behavior and capture success. We found that wasps commonly approached small spiders, but were much less likely to approach medium and large spiders. However, wasp capture success did not vary with spider size. We also report a strategy used by Chalybion wasps toward cobweb spiders that is consistent with an interpretation of aggressive mimicry.

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