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Carbohydrates complement high protein diets to maximize the growth of an actively hunting predator


Wiggins, Will (2022), Carbohydrates complement high protein diets to maximize the growth of an actively hunting predator, Dryad, Dataset,


In nature, food is often variable in composition and availability. As a consequence, predators may need to seek non-prey food sources. Some predators are known to feed on nectar when food is limited. Nectar and other carbohydrate resources could also be beneficial when prey are more abundant if it helps predators balance protein-biased diets. We tested if an actively hunting predator, the jumping spider, Phidippus audax, benefited from liquid carbohydrates when prey were not limited. We also tested if the benefit of carbohydrates varied with the nutrient content of prey (i.e., from protein to lipid-biased). Spiders were reared on one of six live prey, Drosophila melanogaster, treatments that ranged from high protein to high lipid. Half of the spiders were given access to a 20% sucrose solution. After two months, we measured spider mass, cephalothorax width, instar duration, percent body fat, survival, and estimated number of prey eaten. Spiders reared on high protein diets with carbohydrates were larger and heavier than spiders on other treatments. Access to carbohydrates also increased percent body fat and survival across prey treatments. Our results suggest that carbohydrates may be a valuable component of spider diets, especially when prey have high protein and low lipid content as is commonly observed in prey in the field. Our results highlight the importance of diet balancing for predators, and that liquid carbohydrates can be an important nutrient to supplement a diet of prey rather than just being an energy supplement during periods of starvation.