Main content area

Distinct feeding strategies of generalist and specialist spiders

Pompozzi, Gabriel, García, Luis F., Petráková, Lenka, Pekár, Stano
Ecological entomology 2019 v.44 no.1 pp. 129-139
Araneae, DNA, digestive system, feeding frequency, feeding methods, foraging, half life, phylogeny, polymerase chain reaction, predators
1. Feeding behaviour of generalist and specialist predators is determined by a variety of trophic adaptations. Specialised prey‐capture adaptations allow specialists to catch relatively large prey on a regular basis. As a result, specialists might be adapted to exploit each item of prey more thoroughly than do generalists. 2. It was expected that obligatory specialist cursorial spiders would feed less frequently than generalists but for a longer time and, thus, that their foraging pause would be longer. First, the feeding frequencies of three generalist spider species (Cybaeodamus taim, Harpactea hombergi, Hersiliola sternbergsi) were compared with those three phylogenetically related specialist species: myrmecophagous Zodarion rubidum, and araneophagous Nops aff. variabilis and Palpimanus orientalis. 3. Generalists captured more prey, exploited each item of prey for a significantly shorter time, and had a shorter foraging pause than was the case for specialists. Generalists also gained significantly less relative amount of prey mass than did specialists. 4. Second, the study compared the prey DNA degradation rate in the gut of generalists and specialists by means of PCR. The degradation rate was not significantly different between specialists and generalists: the detectability half‐life was estimated to exist for 14.3 days after feeding. 5. This study shows that the feeding strategies of cursorial generalist and obligatory specialist spiders are different. Obligatory specialists have evolved a feeding strategy that is based on thorough exploitation of a few large prey, whereas generalists have evolved a strategy that is based on short exploitation of multiple small items of prey.