Foraging at the thermal limit: burrowing spiders (Seothyra, Eresidae) in the Namib desert dunes

Y. D. Lubin, J. R. Henschel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


In the Namib Desert dunes, the web of Seothyra sp. (Eresidae) comprises sticky silk lining the edges of a horizontal mat on the sand surface. The spider sits in a silk-lined burrow attached to the mat. Arthropods become entangled in the sticky silk of the mat and are attacked and pulled into the burrow by the spider. We investigated the influence of sand surface temperature on the activity of spiders during the summer. We determined the range of thermal conditions encountered by spiders, their temperature tolerance and the influence of temperature on foraging activity and prey handling behavior. The environmental temperatures available to Seothyra vary from 17-33° C at the coolest time of day to 33-73° C at the hottest. When prevented from retreating into burrows, spiders showed signs of thermal stress at about 49° C, whereas unrestrained spiders continued to forage at web temperatures above 65° C by moving between the hot surface mat and the cooler burrow. Spiders responded quicker to prey stimuli during the hot hours of the day and completed prey capture sequences in significantly less time at surface temperatures above 49° C than below. Furthermore, captured arthropods succumbed more quickly at high surface temperatures. Our study supports the hypothesis that web design and thermoregulatory behaviors enable Seothyra to hunt under extreme thermal conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)461-467
Number of pages7
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Oct 1990


  • Behavioral thermoregulation
  • Burrowing spiders
  • Eresidae
  • Foraging activity
  • Web design


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