Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

David and Goliath: How a tiny spider catches much larger prey

Date:
June 12, 2014
Source:
Springer Science+Business Media
Summary:
In nature, it is very rare to find a proverbial much smaller David able to overpower and kill a Goliath for supper. This is exactly the modus operandi of a solitary tiny spider from the Negev desert in Israel that routinely kills ants up to almost four times its own size.

Z. cyrenaicum juvenile attacking M. arenarius worker: Juvenile feeding on the gaster of the paralysed ant.
Credit: Stano Pekár

In nature, it is very rare to find a proverbial much smaller David able to overpower and kill a Goliath for supper. This is exactly the modus operandi of a solitary tiny spider from the Negev desert in Israel that routinely kills ants up to almost four times its own size. Details about how it attacks and kills its prey with a venomous bite is published in Springer's journal Naturwissenschaften -- The Science of Nature.

The study was led by Stano Pekár of Masaryk University in the Czech Republic.

Pekár's team observed the natural prey and predatory behavior of the minute ant-eating Zodarion cyrenaicum spider in the field and in the laboratory.. This spider feeds almost exclusively on the Messor arenarius ant. It can grow up to 17 millimeters and is therefore practically a giant compared to a spiderling of up to three millimetres in size. Two versions or morphs of this ant -- a larger and a smaller one -- are found.

Surprisingly, it was found that the spider, already at the juvenile stage, deliberately chooses to hunt Messor arenarius above all other ant species present in the sand dunes. This is in contrast to other Zodarion species where juveniles select small ants that are comparable to their own size and, as they develop, switch to larger ant species. The researchers suggest that this active selection is likely because the spider is able to recognize a specific component of a pheromone, a chemical substance, produced by the ant.. Pekár's team also found that the adult female spiders generally capture the large morphs, while the tiny juvenile spiders catch smaller ants. In all cases, though, the spiders were much smaller than their prey. The giant ants were always captured by a single individual, and immobilized with a single bite.

Previous work done by Pekár showed that the capture strategy of female adult spiders includes a fast attack from behind, followed by a retreat to avoid counter-attacks by the ants. In the present study, he noted that the tiny juveniles' attack strategy differs from that of the females. Thanks to their tiny size, they are able to climb on the dorsal side of an ant and deliver an immobilizing bite to the abdomen, thus avoiding retaliation by the immediately helpless prey.

The venom glands of adult ant-eating spiders are more than 50 times larger than those of the juveniles. However, it only takes about twice as long for the venom of the younger spiders to take effect. This suggests that this spider species possesses very potent venom already at the juvenile stage. The greater success of adult spiders in capturing prey is most likely because they are able to inject more venom into their prey.

"Specialized capture combined with very effective venom enables this ant-eating spider to capture giant prey," Pekár concludes.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Springer Science+Business Media. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Stano Pekár, Onřej Šedo, Eva Líznarová, Stanislav Korenko, Zdeněk Zdráhal. David and Goliath: potent venom of an ant-eating spider (Araneae) enables capture of a giant prey. Naturwissenschaften, 2014; DOI: 10.1007/s00114-014-1189-8

Cite This Page:

Springer Science+Business Media. "David and Goliath: How a tiny spider catches much larger prey." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 June 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140612095035.htm>.
Springer Science+Business Media. (2014, June 12). David and Goliath: How a tiny spider catches much larger prey. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140612095035.htm
Springer Science+Business Media. "David and Goliath: How a tiny spider catches much larger prey." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140612095035.htm (accessed August 28, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Australian Sheep Gets Long Overdue Haircut

Raw: Australian Sheep Gets Long Overdue Haircut

AP (Aug. 28, 2014) — Hoping to break the record for world's wooliest, Shaun the sheep came up 10 pounds shy with his fleece weighing over 50 pounds after being shorn for the first time in years. (Aug. 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Minds Blown: Scientists Develop Fish That Walk On Land

Minds Blown: Scientists Develop Fish That Walk On Land

Newsy (Aug. 28, 2014) — Canadian scientists looking into the very first land animals took a fish out of water and forced it to walk. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Super Healthful Fruits and Vegetables: Which Are Best?

Super Healthful Fruits and Vegetables: Which Are Best?

Ivanhoe (Aug. 27, 2014) — We all know that it is important to eat our fruits and vegetables but do you know which ones are the best for you? Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com
Bad Memories Turn Good In Weird Mouse Brain Study

Bad Memories Turn Good In Weird Mouse Brain Study

Newsy (Aug. 27, 2014) — MIT researchers were able to change whether bad memories in mice made them anxious by flicking an emotional switch in the brain. Video provided by Newsy
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