The influence of food supply on foraging behaviour in a desert spider

Y. Lubin, J. Henschel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


We tested the alternative hypotheses that foraging effort will increase (energy maximizer model) or decrease (due to increased costs or risks) when food supply increased, using a Namib desert burrowing spider, Seothyra henscheli (Eresidae), which feeds mainly on ants. The web of S. henscheli has a simple geometrical configuration, comprising a horizontal mat on the sand surface, with a variable number of lobes lined with sticky silk. The sticky silk is renewed daily after being covered by wind-blown sand. In a field experiment, we supplemented the spiders' natural prey with one ant on each day that spiders had active webs and determined the response to an increase in prey. We compared the foraging activity and web geometry of prey-supplemented spiders to non-supplemented controls. We compared the same parameters in food-deprived and supplemented spiders in captivity. The results support the "costs of foraging" hypothesis. Supplemented spiders reduced their foraging activity and web dimensions. They moulted at least once and grew rapidly, more than doubling their mass in 6 weeks. By contrast, food-deprived spiders increased foraging effort by enlarging the diameter of the capture web. We suggest that digestive constraints prevented supplemented spiders from fully utilizing the available prey. By reducing foraging activities on the surface, spiders in a prey-rich habitat can reduce the risk of predation. However, early maturation resulting from a higher growth rate provides no advantage to S. henscheli owing to the fact that the timing of mating and dispersal are fixed by climatic factors (wind and temperature). Instead, large female body size will increase fitness by increasing the investment in young during the period of extended maternal care.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)64-73
Number of pages10
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 1996


  • Foraging effort
  • Growth
  • Namib Desert
  • Seothyra
  • Web-building

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


Dive into the research topics of 'The influence of food supply on foraging behaviour in a desert spider'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this