The effects of plant structure on the spatial and microspatial distribution of a bromeliad-living jumping spider (Salticidae)
Correspondence: Departamento de Zoologia, Instituto de Biologia, Universidade Estadual de Campinas (Unicamp), CP 6109, CEP 13083–970, Campinas, SP, Brazil. E-mail: email@example.com
- 1In several regions of South America, the neotropical jumping spider Psecas chapoda inhabits and reproduces strictly on the bromeliad Bromelia balansae. Previous studies reported that this spider is more frequent on bromeliads in grasslands than on those growing in forests, and on larger plants, but only when the bromeliads are without inflorescence. Upon blooming, B. balansae fold their leaves back, thereby changing the plant architecture from a tri-dimensional to a bi-dimensional flattened shape, and our hypothesis is that this alteration affects the spider's habitat-selection decisions.
- 2In the present study, we examined experimentally the effects of inflorescence, plant size and blockade of the axil of the leaves (spider shelters) of forest bromeliads on the colonization of a bromeliad by P. chapoda. By using sticky traps, we also compared prey availability in grassland and forest.
- 3Plants with simulated inflorescence were colonized at a lower frequency than those without inflorescence simulation. Grassland bromeliads in which the rosettes were blocked with dry leaves were colonized less frequently than open bromeliads, whereas forest bromeliads from which dry leaves had been removed were not colonized. Spiders generally abandoned bromeliads in which three-quarters of the length of the leaves had been removed, although females with eggsacs remained on these plants. Prey availability (biomass and number) was up to 18 fold higher in the grassland than in the forest. These results suggest that microhabitat structure and prey availability shape the spatial distribution of P. chapoda populations.
- 4Our findings suggest that Psecas chapoda can evaluate, in fine detail, the physical state of its microhabitat, and this unusual spider–plant association is readily destabilized by changes in the microhabitat (i.e., it is strictly dependent on the size and morphology of the host plant). This study is one of the few to report a strict association between a spider species and its host plant, and also one of the few to examine the effects of habitat and microhabitat structure on the spatial distribution of active hunters on plants.