Social Environment and Feeding State Influence Movement Decisions in a Web-building Spider


Maxence Salomon, Department of Zoology, University of British Columbia, 2370-6270 University Blvd., Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z4, Canada. E-mail:


It is well recognized that feeding rate has a major influence on the amount of movement between microhabitats for many animals. However, the role of other extrinsic and intrinsic factors, and particularly how these factors may interact, is not well understood. This three-part study examines the movement decisions of a web-building spider, Latrodectus hesperus, by assessing microhabitat tenacity in established spiders and by testing how the presence of conspecific neighbours and the combined influence of individual feeding state (determined by prior feeding experience) and neighbour presence influence microhabitat residence time in unestablished spiders. The results show that naturally established spiders did not leave their microhabitats readily, emphasizing the importance of choosing a profitable location. Unestablished spiders stayed longer in microhabitats occupied by conspecifics than in unoccupied ones, and there was practically no cannibalism even though neighbours shared webs. Furthermore, feeding state and neighbour presence showed an interactive effect on microhabitat residence time. When spiders were housed alone, microhabitat residence time increased with feeding state. However, in the presence of conspecifics, spiders had a low propensity to move, regardless of feeding state. Together, these results demonstrate the combined importance of grouping dynamics and feeding state in shaping movement decisions.