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.

Related Articles


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 October 25, 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 October 25, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Deep Sea 'mushroom' Could Be Early Branch on Tree of Life

Deep Sea 'mushroom' Could Be Early Branch on Tree of Life

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Oct. 24, 2014) — Miniature deep sea animals discovered off the Australian coast almost three decades ago are puzzling scientists, who say the organisms have proved impossible to categorise. Academics at the Natural History of Denmark have appealed to the world scientific community for help, saying that further information on Dendrogramma enigmatica and Dendrogramma discoides could answer key evolutionary questions. Jim Drury has more. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Black Bear Cub Goes Sunday Shopping

Black Bear Cub Goes Sunday Shopping

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Oct. 23, 2014) — Price check on honey? Bear cub startles Oregon drugstore shoppers. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Dances With Wolves in China's Wild West

Dances With Wolves in China's Wild West

AFP (Oct. 23, 2014) — One man is on a mission to boost the population of wolves in China's violence-wracked far west. The animal - symbol of the Uighur minority there - is under threat with a massive human resettlement program in the region. Duration: 00:41 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Breakfast Debate: To Eat Or Not To Eat?

Breakfast Debate: To Eat Or Not To Eat?

Newsy (Oct. 23, 2014) — Conflicting studies published in the same week re-ignited the debate over whether we should be eating breakfast. 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:

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