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 October 22, 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 October 22, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Cadaver Dogs Aid Search for More Victims of Suspected Indiana Serial Killer

Cadaver Dogs Aid Search for More Victims of Suspected Indiana Serial Killer

Reuters - US Online Video (Oct. 21, 2014) Police in Gary, Indiana are using cadaver dogs to search for more victims after a suspected serial killer confessed to killing at least seven women. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
White Lion Cubs Unveiled to the Public

White Lion Cubs Unveiled to the Public

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Oct. 21, 2014) Visitors to Belgrade zoo meet a pair of three-week-old lion cubs for the first time. Tara Cleary reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
'Cadaver Dog' Sniffs out Human Remains

'Cadaver Dog' Sniffs out Human Remains

AP (Oct. 21, 2014) Where's a body buried? Buster's nose can often tell you. He's a cadaver dog, specially trained to find human remains and increasingly being used by law enforcement and accepted in courts. These dogs are helping solve even decades-old mysteries. (Oct. 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
White Lion Cubs Born in Belgrade Zoo

White Lion Cubs Born in Belgrade Zoo

AFP (Oct. 20, 2014) Two white lion cubs, an extremely rare subspecies of the African lion, were recently born at Belgrade Zoo. They are being bottle fed by zoo keepers after they were rejected by their mother after birth. Duration: 00:42 Video provided by AFP
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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

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