Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Death By Color: Spiny Spiders' Bright Stripes Attract Prey

Date:
June 17, 2002
Source:
Cornell University
Summary:
Like the glitter and glare of Las Vegas beckoning tourists to the gambling tables, the orb-weaving spiny spider flashes its colorful back to lure unsuspecting quarry into its web. The discovery of this lethal use of color runs contrary to the long-held belief that in the animal kingdom color is used generally to attract mates rather than to entice prey, says a Cornell University animal behavior researcher.

ITHACA, N.Y. -- Like the glitter and glare of Las Vegas beckoning tourists to the gambling tables, the orb-weaving spiny spider flashes its colorful back to lure unsuspecting quarry into its web. The discovery of this lethal use of color runs contrary to the long-held belief that in the animal kingdom color is used generally to attract mates rather than to entice prey, says a Cornell University animal behavior researcher.

"Attraction is all casinos are about. They lure you; they want to get you there. They lure people with bright lights, cheap plane tickets, inexpensive hotel rooms, great shows and great meals," says Mark E. Hauber of Cornell's Department of Neurobiology and Behavior. "The spiny spiders work the same way."

Hauber's discovery will be described in a forthcoming issue of the Royal Entomological Society journal Ecological Entomology (September 2002), in an article, "Colouration attracts prey to a stationary predator."

Bright colors and contrasting patterns should be rare in predators that use traps, since conspicuous body color is scientifically counter-intuitive in stationary predators, says Hauber. Generally, he says, animals use "sit-and-wait" tactics in their concealed traps to capture prey, and colors and patterns only alert potential prey. Yet orb-weaving arachnids, such as the spiny spiders of Australia, are brightly colored and have contrasting patterns on their bodies. Hauber found that the more colorful their backs, the greater their chances of catching prey.

"It goes against what most scientists would have thought. Color is an attracting feature," says Hauber. "While color on animals like parrots allows them to blend into the colorful rain forest, other animals use color to attract mates. In this case, the color lures prey to the web. Perhaps the color itself may look like flowers to the insects that eventually become entrapped in the web," he says.

Hauber observed spiny spiders (Gasteracantha fornicata ) in northeastern Australia. He covered the yellow-black striped dorsal surface on the spiders' backs with ink from a black felt-tip pen. Spiders with the black dorsal surface caught less prey than spiders with their normal colorful stripes. Repeatedly he found that the blackened spiny spider always attracted and caught less prey.

"Perhaps the colors and patterns of their dorsal surface mimic the color of food -- such as flowers -- for visually oriented prey. It is also possible that the dorsal surface of the spiny spider is highly reflective in the ultraviolet part of the spectrum," he says. "Many flies, mosquitoes and gnats are attracted to bright light, and the kind of light rich in ultraviolet spectra, because these indicate the presence of field clearings adjacent to dense forests."

Hauber also learned that spiny spiders set their webs at an angle and that they sit on the underside of their webs with their backs to the ground. This suggests, says Hauber, that sun and nearby vegetation offer camouflage for the web. "Daytime web-building and hunting, along with the web placement and orientation, is consistent with behavior that attracts prey traveling from darker areas to lighter ones," says Hauber.

Funding for the research came from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Predoctoral Fellowship program.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Cornell University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Cornell University. "Death By Color: Spiny Spiders' Bright Stripes Attract Prey." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 June 2002. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/06/020617074416.htm>.
Cornell University. (2002, June 17). Death By Color: Spiny Spiders' Bright Stripes Attract Prey. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/06/020617074416.htm
Cornell University. "Death By Color: Spiny Spiders' Bright Stripes Attract Prey." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/06/020617074416.htm (accessed July 24, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Dogs Appear To Become Jealous Of Owners' Attention

Dogs Appear To Become Jealous Of Owners' Attention

Newsy (July 23, 2014) A U.C. San Diego researcher says jealousy isn't just a human trait, and dogs aren't the best at sharing the attention of humans with other dogs. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Professor Creates Site Revealing Where People's Cats Live

Professor Creates Site Revealing Where People's Cats Live

Newsy (July 23, 2014) ​It's called I Know Where Your Cat Lives, and you can keep hitting the "Random Cat" button to find more real cats all over the world. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Stone Fruit Listeria Scare Causes Sweeping Recall

Stone Fruit Listeria Scare Causes Sweeping Recall

Newsy (July 22, 2014) The Wawona Packing Company has issued a voluntary recall on the stone fruit it distributes due to a possible Listeria outbreak. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Michigan Plant's Goal: Flower and Die

Michigan Plant's Goal: Flower and Die

AP (July 22, 2014) An 80-year-old agave plant, which is blooming for the first and only time at a University of Michigan conservatory, will die when it's done (July 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins