Spiders particular about renovating damaged webs

June 2nd, 2011 - 1:26 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, June 2 (IANS) Spiderman performs incredible death defying leaps in reel life with the help of his web swinging skills to save lives in imminent danger. However, in real life, orb weaving spiders use their skills for a more prosaic work — renovating severely damaged webs by stitching bigger silk crosses.

Orb-weaver spiders are the most common group of builders of spiral wheel-shaped webs often found in gardens, fields and forests.

Prof Mark Elgar, zoologist from University of Melbourne, who led the study with Andre Walter, said web damage is costly for spiders as a lot of nutritional resources are required to rebuild a web. “So they evolved this ingenious way to minimise unwanted damage,” he said.

“It’s much like we mark glass windows with tape to prevent people walking into them,” he said, reports the journal Behavioural Ecology and Sociobiology.

The team collected a group of orb-weaving spiders and left them to build their webs in the lab. Some of the completed webs were severely damaged, others lightly damaged and the remainder left alone. The response of the spiders was then observed, according to a Melbourne statement.

“The fact that spiders increased their decorating activity in response to severe damage but didn’t increase their decorating following light damage suggests that the conspicuous building of silk crosses serves to make webs more visible to animals that might accidentally walk or fly into them,” Prof Elgar said.

Adding silk decorations to spiders’ orb-webs was first reported over a century ago. “Our study helps unravel this mystery,” Prof Elgar said.

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