Signals and Signal Choices made by the Araneophagic Jumping Spider Portia fimbriata while Hunting the Orb-Weaving Web spiders Zygiella x-notata and Zosis geniculatus


Corresponding author: Michael Tarsitano, Department of Integrative Biology, 3060 Valley Life Sciences Building # 3140, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720-3140, USA. E-mail:


Portia fimbriata is a web-invading araneophagic jumping spider (Salticidae). The use of signal-generating behaviours is characteristic of how P. fimbriata captures its prey, with three basic categories of signal-generating behaviours being prevalent when the prey spider is in an orb web. The predatory behaviour of P. fimbriata has been referred to as aggressive mimicry, but no previous studies have provided details concerning the characteristics of P. fimbriata's signals. We attempt to determine the model signals for P. fimbriata's ‘aggressive mimicry’ signals. Using laser Doppler vibrometer and the orb webs of Zygiella x-notata and Zosis geniculatus, P. fimbriata's signals are compared with signals from other sources. Each of P. fimbriata's three categories of behaviour makes a signal that resembles one of three signals from other sources: prey of the web spider (insects) ensnared in the capture zone of the web, prey making faint contact with the periphery of the web and large-scale disturbance of the web (jarring the spider's cage). Experimental evidence from testing P. fimbriata with two sizes of lure made from Zosis (dead, mounted in a lifelike posture in standard-size orb web) clarifies P. fimbriata's signal-use strategy: (1) when the resident spider is small, begin by simulating signals from an insect ensnared in the capture zone (attempt to lure in the resident spider); (2) when the resident spider is large, start by simulating signals from an insect brushing against the periphery of the web (keep the resident spider out in the web, but avoid provoking from it a full-scale predatory attack); (3) when walking in the resident spider's web, regardless of the resident spider's size, step toward the spider while making a signal that simulates a large-scale disturbance of the web (mask footsteps with a self-made vibratory smokescreen).