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Keywords:

  • spider;
  • foraging efficiency;
  • autotomy;
  • physical injury;
  • predator–prey interactions

Abstract

Few studies have attempted to determine how physical injury affects predators. One of the ways that physical injury can be expressed is by autotomy or the voluntary loss of a body part. Here, we examined whether the loss of specific legs affects the foraging success of the wolf spider Rabidosa santrita (predator) on another species, Pardosa valens (prey). We also wanted to identify whether the loss of legs in both the predator and prey would impact the outcome of a predation event. Both predator and prey were collected from a creek bed at Portal, AZ, in 2012. Predators were randomly assigned groups where all prey items were intact or all prey had one randomly chosen leg IV removed. Within these groups, predators were organized into a control, leg I autotomy, or leg IV autotomy treatment. All predators had their pre- and post-foraging running speed determined. Predators were introduced into chambers with five prey items and allowed to forage for 1 h. The leg position autotomized or the comparison of pre- and post-foraging trials had no effect on predator running speed. Additionally, there was no significant effect of either predator or prey leg treatment on the total proportion of prey items captured by the end of the foraging trials. Survival analyses indicated that intact prey items tended to have a higher survival rate when predators were missing a leg IV than when predators were intact. When both the predator and prey were missing legs, no significant difference in prey survival rates was detected. We suggest that for predators that inhabit complex, heterogeneous habitats and are classified as ambush predators, the loss of a limb may affect prey capture success, especially when the prey is intact, but that increased sample size is necessary to determine whether this trend is significant.