Nav: Home

More than bugs: Spiders also like to eat vegetarian

March 14, 2016

Spiders are known to be the classic example of insectivorous predators. Zoologists from the University of Basel, the US and UK have now been able to show that their diet is more diverse than expected. Their findings show that spiders like to spice up their menu with the occasional vegetarian meal. The Journal of Arachnology has published the results.

Although traditionally viewed as a predator of insects, researchers have become increasingly aware that spiders are not exclusively insectivorous. Some spiders have been shown to enrich their diets by occasionally feasting on fish, frogs or even bats. A new study by Zoologists from the University of Basel, Brandeis University (US) and Cardiff University (UK) now shows evidence of spiders eating plant food as well.

Plants as diet supplement

The researchers gathered and documented numerous examples from literature of spiders eating plant food. According to their systematic review, spiders from ten families have been reported feeding on a wide variety of different plant types such as trees, shrubs, weeds, grasses, ferns or orchids. They also show a diverse taste when it comes to the type of plant food: nectar, plant sap, honeydew, leaf tissue, pollen and seeds are all on the menu.

The most prominent group of spiders engaged in plant-eating are Salticidae - a diurnal spider family with characteristically large anterior median eyes. Salticidae were attributed with up to 60 percent of all plant-eating incidents documented in this study. As plant-dwelling, highly mobile foragers with excellent capability to detect suitable plant food, these spiders seems to be predestined to include some plant food in their diets.

Global feeding behavior

Spiders feeding on plants is global in its extent, as such behavior has been reported from all continents except Antarctica. However, it is documented more frequently from warmer areas. The researchers suggest that this might be due to the fact that a larger number of the reports relate to nectar consumption which has its core distribution in warmer areas where plants secreting large amounts of nectar are widespread.

"The ability of spiders to derive nutrients from plants is broadening the food base of these animals; this might be a survival mechanism helping spiders to stay alive during periods when insects are scarce", says lead author Martin Nyffeler from the University of Basel in Switzerland. "In addition, diversifying their diet with plant is advantageous from a nutritional point of view, since diet mixing is optimizing nutrient intake." However, the extent to which the different categories of plant food contribute to the spiders' diet is still largely unexplored.
-end-


University of Basel

Related Behavior Articles:

Religious devotion as predictor of behavior
'Religious Devotion and Extrinsic Religiosity Affect In-group Altruism and Out-group Hostility Oppositely in Rural Jamaica,' suggests that a sincere belief in God -- religious devotion -- is unrelated to feelings of prejudice.
Brain stimulation influences honest behavior
Researchers at the University of Zurich have identified the brain mechanism that governs decisions between honesty and self-interest.
Brain pattern flexibility and behavior
The scientists analyzed an extensive data set of brain region connectivity from the NIH-funded Human Connectome Project (HCP) which is mapping neural connections in the brain and makes its data publicly available.
Butterflies: Agonistic display or courtship behavior?
A study shows that contests of butterflies occur only as erroneous courtships between sexually active males that are unable to distinguish the sex of the other butterflies.
Sedentary behavior associated with diabetic retinopathy
In a study published online by JAMA Ophthalmology, Paul D.
Curiosity has the power to change behavior for the better
Curiosity could be an effective tool to entice people into making smarter and sometimes healthier decisions, according to research presented at the annual convention of the American Psychological Association.
Campgrounds alter jay behavior
Anyone who's gone camping has seen birds foraging for picnic crumbs, and according to new research in The Condor: Ornithological Applications, the availability of food in campgrounds significantly alters jays' behavior and may even change how they interact with other bird species.
A new tool for forecasting the behavior of the microbiome
A team of investigators from Brigham and Women's Hospital and the University of Massachusetts have developed a suite of computer algorithms that can accurately predict the behavior of the microbiome -- the vast collection of microbes living on and inside the human body.
Is risk-taking behavior contagious?
Why do we sometimes decide to take risks and other times choose to play it safe?
Neural connectivity dictates altruistic behavior
A new study suggests that the specific alignment of neural networks in the brain dictates whether a person's altruism was motivated by selfish or altruistic behavior.

Related Behavior Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Climate Crisis
There's no greater threat to humanity than climate change. What can we do to stop the worst consequences? This hour, TED speakers explore how we can save our planet and whether we can do it in time. Guests include climate activist Greta Thunberg, chemical engineer Jennifer Wilcox, research scientist Sean Davis, food innovator Bruce Friedrich, and psychologist Per Espen Stoknes.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#527 Honey I CRISPR'd the Kids
This week we're coming to you from Awesome Con in Washington, D.C. There, host Bethany Brookshire led a panel of three amazing guests to talk about the promise and perils of CRISPR, and what happens now that CRISPR babies have (maybe?) been born. Featuring science writer Tina Saey, molecular biologist Anne Simon, and bioethicist Alan Regenberg. A Nobel Prize winner argues banning CRISPR babies won’t work Geneticists push for a 5-year global ban on gene-edited babies A CRISPR spin-off causes unintended typos in DNA News of the first gene-edited babies ignited a firestorm The researcher who created CRISPR twins defends...