Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Diet of elusive red widow spider revealed by MU biologist

21.03.2014

Beetles: it's what's for breakfast—at least for the red widow spider of Florida's "scrub" habitat, according to a study by University of Missouri biologist James Carrel.

The study provides a first glimpse at the diet of this mysterious spider, revealing that it primarily preys upon species of scarab beetles common to the scrub habitat. Carrel's findings shed light on red widow spiders' restriction to the Florida scrub habitat and the need for habitat conservation efforts.

Red Widow Spider

Latrodectus bishopi gets its name for the reddish-orange coloring of its head, carapace, and legs. Although venomous, no bites from this spider have been recorded.

Credit: James Carrel

Scrub Palmetto Scarab

Trigonopeltastes floridana is one species of scarab beetles endemic to the Florida scrub that the red widow spider preys on.

Credit: Tim Lethbridge

"The pine scrub habitat, found on sandy ridges in Central and Southeastern Florida, is one of the oldest in North America," said Carrel, Curators Professor Emeritus in the MU Division of Biological Sciences. "Many of the plants and animals found on these ridges, including the red widow spider, are restricted to these high, dry areas. Our research suggests that red widows have evolved to specialize on scarab beetles because they are reliable food sources."

... more about:
»beetles »biologist »endemic »populations »scrub »species »spiders

Carrel said that red widow spiders are difficult to study due to habitat confinement and the hidden nature of their webs, which are built in palmetto shrubs. Red widows conceal their funnel-shaped retreats in unopened palmetto leaves, making them difficult to spot. The only clues to the spiders' presence, visible solely on foggy mornings during four months of the year, are the threads spun loosely between tips of palmetto frond.

Since 1987, Carrel has been monitoring populations of this spider at the Archbold Biological Station, which protects a 5,193-acre Florida scrub preserve near Lake Placid. Only twice in those 23 years – in March 1989 and in May 2003 – have enough webs been located to study the dietary habits of these elusive spiders. The scientists identified 43 species of insects among the 98 specimens collected. The study revealed that the primary prey of the spider, especially in early spring, are five species of scarab beetles endemic to the Florida scrub habitat.

"The scarab beetles, which often are larger and stronger than the spiders themselves, fly just above the tops of scrub vegetation," said Mark Deyrup, senior research biologist for the Archbold Biological Station, who co-authored the study. "Sometimes beetles hit the web strands between tips of palmetto fronds and tumble into the denser tangle of threads below, catching them in the red widows' webs."

Carrel has monitored red widow spider populations at the Station since 1987, but has found enough webs to study red widows' dietary habits only twice. During both time periods, Carrel worked alongside Deyrup to collect and identify prey from spiders' webs.

Carrel's study, entitled "Red widow spiders prey extensively on scarab beetles endemic in Florida scrub," appeared in the March issue of the Florida Entomologist. Funding for the study came in part from a grant from the University of Missouri in Columbia, MO.

Jeff Sossamon | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.missouri.edu

Further reports about: beetles biologist endemic populations scrub species spiders

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Moth takes advantage of defensive compounds in Physalis fruits
26.08.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für chemische Ökologie

nachricht Designing ultrasound tools with Lego-like proteins
26.08.2016 | California Institute of Technology

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Streamlining accelerated computing for industry

PyFR code combines high accuracy with flexibility to resolve unsteady turbulence problems

Scientists and engineers striving to create the next machine-age marvel--whether it be a more aerodynamic rocket, a faster race car, or a higher-efficiency jet...

Im Focus: X-ray optics on a chip

Waveguides are widely used for filtering, confining, guiding, coupling or splitting beams of visible light. However, creating waveguides that could do the same for X-rays has posed tremendous challenges in fabrication, so they are still only in an early stage of development.

In the latest issue of Acta Crystallographica Section A: Foundations and Advances , Sarah Hoffmann-Urlaub and Tim Salditt report the fabrication and testing of...

Im Focus: Piggyback battery for microchips: TU Graz researchers develop new battery concept

Electrochemists at TU Graz have managed to use monocrystalline semiconductor silicon as an active storage electrode in lithium batteries. This enables an integrated power supply to be made for microchips with a rechargeable battery.

Small electrical gadgets, such as mobile phones, tablets or notebooks, are indispensable accompaniments of everyday life. Integrated circuits in the interiors...

Im Focus: UCI physicists confirm possible discovery of fifth force of nature

Light particle could be key to understanding dark matter in universe

Recent findings indicating the possible discovery of a previously unknown subatomic particle may be evidence of a fifth fundamental force of nature, according...

Im Focus: Wi-fi from lasers

White light from lasers demonstrates data speeds of up to 2 GB/s

A nanocrystalline material that rapidly makes white light out of blue light has been developed by KAUST researchers.

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

The energy transition is not possible without Geotechnics

25.08.2016 | Event News

New Ideas for the Shipping Industry

24.08.2016 | Event News

A week of excellence: 22 of the world’s best computer scientists and mathematicians in Heidelberg

12.08.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

Symmetry crucial for building key biomaterial collagen in the lab

26.08.2016 | Health and Medicine

Volcanic eruption masked acceleration in sea level rise

26.08.2016 | Earth Sciences

Moth takes advantage of defensive compounds in Physalis fruits

26.08.2016 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>