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Discoid decorations function to shield juvenile Argiope spiders from avian predator attacks

Citation

Wang, Bingjun et al. (2021), Discoid decorations function to shield juvenile Argiope spiders from avian predator attacks, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.j0zpc86fc

Abstract

Decorating behavior is common in various animal taxa and serves a variety of functions from camouflage to communication. One predominant function cited for decoration is to avoid predators. Conspicuous, disc-like (discoid) silk decorations spun by orb-web Argiope juvenile spiders are hypothesized, among others, to defend spiders against visual predators by concealing spider outlines on the web, deflecting attacks, shielding them from view or masquerading as bird-droppings. However, the direct evidence is limited for a specific mechanism by which discoid decorations may deter predators. Here we evaluate the mechanisms by which discoid decorations may defend Argiope juveniles against naïve chicks. Using visual modelling, we show that avian predators are able to distinguish spiders from discoid decorations. Using chick predation experiments, we found that the naïve chicks readily pecked any objects, ruling out the possibility of their neophobia. Significantly more chicks attacked spiders when they were exposed to chicks, regardless of whether their webs had discoid decorations, but few chicks attacked spiders when they were behind the decorations. We also found that significantly few chicks attacked decorations when spiders were absent or behind the decorations. We thus conclude that discoid decorations function to deter avian predators by shielding the spider from view or distracting, not by deflecting attacks, concealing the spider’s outline or masquerading as bird-droppings. This study sheds light on the study of other similar anti-predator strategies, in a wide range of spider species and other animals that use decorating strategies. --

Funding

Ministry of Education - Singapore, Award: R-154-000-B18-114

National Natural Science Foundation of China, Award: 31872229 and 31801979