The Curious Case of the Upside-down Spider

I forgot to mention that last year I got a paper out on an orb-web spider that sits upside down in the web. Freaky stuff.

Reverse positional orientation in a neotropical orb-web spider, Verrucosa arenata
Dinesh Rao, Oscar Ceballos Fernandez, Ernesto Castañeda-Barbosa and Francisco Díaz-Fleischer

Most orb-web spiders face downwards in the web. A downward orientation has been proposed to be the optimal strategy because spiders run faster downwards and thus can catch prey quicker. Consequently, orb-web spiders also extend their web in the lower part, leading to top-down web asymmetry. Since the majority of orb-web spiders face downwards, it has been difficult to test the effect of orientation on prey capture and web asymmetry. In this study, we explored the influence of reverse orientation on foraging efficiency and web asymmetry in Verrucosa arenata, a neotropical orb-web spider that faces upwards in the web. We show that reverse orientation does not imply reverse web asymmetry in this species. V. arenata spiders captured more prey in the lower part of the web but more prey per area on the upper part. The average running speeds of spiders did not differ between upward and downward running, but heavier spiders took longer to capture prey while running upwards. We discuss these findings in the context of foraging efficiency and web asymmetry.


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