Predator-prey interactions between jumping spiders (Araneae, Salticidae) and Phokus phalangioides (Araneae, Pholcidae)



Portia is a genus of specialized web-invading salticids that use aggressive mimicry. Some other salticids leap into webs to catch spiders but do not use aggressive mimicry. Pholcus phalangioides is a web-building spider with a special defensive behaviour—called whirling—in which it swings its body around in a circle while keeping its long legs on the silk. Pholcus phalangioides is preyed on by Portia and probably other salticid spiders in nature. Interactions between P. phalangioides and 13 species of salticids were studied in the laboratory to compare how effective salticids with different styles of predation were at catching the pholcids. Four species of Portia were studied and each was more efficient at catching P. phalangioides than were the other nine salticids tested. For one species—Portia fimbriata—individuals from three different populations were studied. The Queensland P. fimbriata used aggressive mimicry more consistently and were more efficient at catching P. phalangioides than were the other species of Portia and the other populations of P. fimbriata. The salticids that were the most efficient at catching pholcids were also better able to avoid setting off whirling by the pholcids. An experiment in which pholcids were artificially induced to whirl whenever the predator was near provided additional evidence that whirling is an effective defence of pholcids against predation by salticids.