Arthropods are highly sensitive to environmental change, due to their strong dependence on vegetation structure, microclimate and composition of prey and predator species. As such, one may expect adaptive plastic and/or genetic shifts in phenotypic and behavioural traits (including behavioural syndromes) in relation to environmentally-driven cost-benefit alterations. Central in the life-history of orb-web spiders is the production of silk thread used for prey-capture, natal dispersion and as a warning system for predators. As silk production is energetically costly, web building behaviour makes a good candidate for evolutionary studies.
The main aim of this study is to quantify and explain spatial and temporal variation in web-building behaviour by Afrotropical orb-web spiders, with main focus on aposematism, prey-capture and dispersal strategies. This will be achieved through a combination of field observations and experiments in the highly-fragmented Taita Hills forests of south-east Kenya, and controlled laboratory experiments that aim to assess the environmental and genetic components of the observed variation.
habitat fragmentation, web spider, evolutionary adaptation, plasticity, behavioural strategies, web-building, natal dispersal, morphology
created:2011-12-14 14:18:59 UTC, source:web