Relocation, reproduction and remaining alive in the orb-web spider


  • Editor: Nigel Bennett

Robert W. Elwood, School of Biological Sciences, Queen's University, Belfast, MBC, Lisburn Road, Northern Ireland, BT9 7BL.


When mortality is high, animals run a risk if they wait to accumulate resources for improved reproduction so they may trade-off the time of reproduction with number and size of offspring. Animals may attempt to improve food acquisition by relocation, even in ‘sit and wait’ predators. We examine these factors in an isolated population of an orb-web spider Zygiella x-notata. The population was monitored for 200 days from first egg laying until all adults had died. Large females produced their first clutch earlier than did small females and there was a positive correlation between female size and the number and size of eggs produced. Many females, presumably without eggs, abandoned their web site and relocated their web position. This is presumed because female Zygiella typically guard their eggs. In total, c. 25% of females reproduced but those that relocated were less likely to do so, and if they did, they produced the clutch at a later date than those that remained. When the date of lay was controlled there was no effect of relocation on egg number but relocated females produced smaller eggs. The data are consistent with the idea that females in resource-poor sites are more likely to relocate. Relocation seems to be a gamble to find a more productive site but one that achieves only a late clutch of small eggs and few achieve that.