Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Death by color: spiny spiders’ bright stripes don’t alarm but attract prey, Cornell behavior scientist discovers

14.06.2002


Like the glitter and glare of Las Vegas beckoning tourists to the gambling tables, the orb-weaving spiny spider flashes its colorful back to lure unsuspecting quarry into its web. The discovery of this lethal use of color runs contrary to the long-held belief that in the animal kingdom color is used generally to attract mates rather than to entice prey, says a Cornell University animal behavior researcher



"Attraction is all casinos are about. They lure you; they want to get you there. They lure people with bright lights, cheap plane tickets, inexpensive hotel rooms, great shows and great meals," says Mark E. Hauber of Cornell’s Department of Neurobiology and Behavior. "The spiny spiders work the same way."

Hauber’s discovery will be described in a forthcoming issue of the Royal Entomological Society journal Ecological Entomology (September 2002), in an article, "Colouration attracts prey to a stationary predator."


Bright colors and contrasting patterns should be rare in predators that use traps, since conspicuous body color is scientifically counter-intuitive in stationary predators, says Hauber. Generally, he says, animals use "sit-and-wait" tactics in their concealed traps to capture prey, and colors and patterns only alert potential prey. Yet orb-weaving arachnids, such as the spiny spiders of Australia, are brightly colored and have contrasting patterns on their bodies. Hauber found that the more colorful their backs, the greater their chances of catching prey.

"It goes against what most scientists would have thought. Color is an attracting feature," says Hauber. "While color on animals like parrots allows them to blend into the colorful rain forest, other animals use color to attract mates. In this case, the color lures prey to the web. Perhaps the color itself may look like flowers to the insects that eventually become entrapped in the web," he says.

Hauber observed spiny spiders (Gasteracantha fornicata ) in northeastern Australia. He covered the yellow-black striped dorsal surface on the spiders’ backs with ink from a black felt-tip pen. Spiders with the black dorsal surface caught less prey than spiders with their normal colorful stripes. Repeatedly he found that the blackened spiny spider always attracted and caught less prey.

"Perhaps the colors and patterns of their dorsal surface mimic the color of food -- such as flowers -- for visually oriented prey. It is also possible that the dorsal surface of the spiny spider is highly reflective in the ultraviolet part of the spectrum," he says. "Many flies, mosquitoes and gnats are attracted to bright light, and the kind of light rich in ultraviolet spectra, because these indicate the presence of field clearings adjacent to dense forests."

Hauber also learned that spiny spiders set their webs at an angle and that they sit on the underside of their webs with their backs to the ground. This suggests, says Hauber, that sun and nearby vegetation offer camouflage for the web. "Daytime web-building and hunting, along with the web placement and orientation, is consistent with behavior that attracts prey traveling from darker areas to lighter ones," says Hauber.

Funding for the research came from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Predoctoral Fellowship program

Blaine P. Friedlander Jr. | EurekAlert

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Structure of a mitochondrial ATP synthase
19.11.2019 | Science For Life Laboratory

nachricht Mantis shrimp vs. disco clams: Colorful sea creatures do more than dazzle
19.11.2019 | University of Colorado at Boulder

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Atoms don't like jumping rope

Nanooptical traps are a promising building block for quantum technologies. Austrian and German scientists have now removed an important obstacle to their practical use. They were able to show that a special form of mechanical vibration heats trapped particles in a very short time and knocks them out of the trap.

By controlling individual atoms, quantum properties can be investigated and made usable for technological applications. For about ten years, physicists have...

Im Focus: Images from NJIT's big bear solar observatory peel away layers of a stellar mystery

An international team of scientists, including three researchers from New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), has shed new light on one of the central mysteries of solar physics: how energy from the Sun is transferred to the star's upper atmosphere, heating it to 1 million degrees Fahrenheit and higher in some regions, temperatures that are vastly hotter than the Sun's surface.

With new images from NJIT's Big Bear Solar Observatory (BBSO), the researchers have revealed in groundbreaking, granular detail what appears to be a likely...

Im Focus: New opportunities in additive manufacturing presented

Fraunhofer IFAM Dresden demonstrates manufacturing of copper components

The Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Technology and Advanced Materials IFAM in Dresden has succeeded in using Selective Electron Beam Melting (SEBM) to...

Im Focus: New Pitt research finds carbon nanotubes show a love/hate relationship with water

Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) are valuable for a wide variety of applications. Made of graphene sheets rolled into tubes 10,000 times smaller than a human hair, CNTs have an exceptional strength-to-mass ratio and excellent thermal and electrical properties. These features make them ideal for a range of applications, including supercapacitors, interconnects, adhesives, particle trapping and structural color.

New research reveals even more potential for CNTs: as a coating, they can both repel and hold water in place, a useful property for applications like printing,...

Im Focus: Magnets for the second dimension

If you've ever tried to put several really strong, small cube magnets right next to each other on a magnetic board, you'll know that you just can't do it. What happens is that the magnets always arrange themselves in a column sticking out vertically from the magnetic board. Moreover, it's almost impossible to join several rows of these magnets together to form a flat surface. That's because magnets are dipolar. Equal poles repel each other, with the north pole of one magnet always attaching itself to the south pole of another and vice versa. This explains why they form a column with all the magnets aligned the same way.

Now, scientists at ETH Zurich have managed to create magnetic building blocks in the shape of cubes that - for the first time ever - can be joined together to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

First International Conference on Agrophotovoltaics in August 2020

15.11.2019 | Event News

Laser Symposium on Electromobility in Aachen: trends for the mobility revolution

15.11.2019 | Event News

High entropy alloys for hot turbines and tireless metal-forming presses

05.11.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

Structure of a mitochondrial ATP synthase

19.11.2019 | Life Sciences

The measurements of the expansion of the universe don't add up

19.11.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

Ayahuasca compound changes brainwaves to vivid 'waking-dream' state

19.11.2019 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>