The enemy of my enemy is my friend. Now UZH researchers now show that this principle also holds for crab spiders and flowering plants. While it’s true that the spiders do eat or drive away useful pollinators such as bees, they’re also attracted by floral scent signals to come and help if the plant is attacked by insects intent on eating it.
Interactions between organisms such as plants and animals can be found everywhere in nature. Anina Knauer and Florian Schiestl, a professor at UZH’s Department of Systematic and Evolutionary Botany, has taken a closer look at one such instance: the interaction between crab spiders and the buckler-mustard, a yellow flowering plant common in Europe.
The harmful side of crab spiders
Crab spiders are predators that lie in wait for their prey on the flowers. It used to be assumed that these spiders harm the plant, because they catch pollinating insects or discourage them from visiting the flowers. The ecologists at UZH have now been able to reveal a surprising phenomenon: “Crab spiders find the plant by following the scent of its flowers. They do so using β-ocimene, the floral volatile that also attracts bees,” says Schiestl.
Floral volatile serves as a cry for help
Indeed if crab spiders are sitting on the flowers, fewer bees will visit because they’re discouraged by the spiders. But the spiders don’t just eat pollinators. They also eliminate plant-eating insects and their larvae that feed on the flowers or fruit and damage the plant. This way the crab spiders benefit the plant, bearing out the principle that the enemy of my enemy is my friend.
Apparently the benefit is so great that when attacked by florivores, the plants give off larger amounts of the floral volatile that attracts the spiders. This “cry for help” actually works: in response to it the spiders are increasingly likely to visit the flowers that are being attacked, where they find rich pickings.
Understanding interactions to protect ecosystems
The study shows that the effect of interacting organisms is highly dependent on the ecological context. But in complex ecosystems the consequences can’t always be predicted. This means that the disappearance of existing interacting partners or the appearance of new ones can have unforeseeable implications for individual members of an ecosystem. “For this reason it’s important to better understand the interactions between organisms and their consequences to be able to apply the insights in the protection of ecosystems or organic farming,” concludes Florian Schiestl.
Anina C. Knauer, Moe Bakhtiari and Florian P. Schiestl. Crab spiders impact floral-signal evolution indirectly through removal of florivores. Nature Communications. April 10,2018. DOI: 10.1038/s41467-018-03792-x
Prof. Florian Schiestl, PhD
Department of Systematic and Evolutionary Botany
University of Zurich
Phone: +41 44 634 84 09
Kurt Bodenmüller | Universität Zürich
Link between Gut Flora and Multiple Sclerosis Discovered
15.10.2018 | Universität Zürich
Storage & Transport of highly volatile Gases made safer & cheaper by the use of “Kinetic Trapping"
15.10.2018 | Universität Augsburg
Augsburg chemists present a new technology for compressing, storing and transporting highly volatile gases in porous frameworks/New prospects for gas-powered vehicles
Storage of highly volatile gases has always been a major technological challenge, not least for use in the automotive sector, for, for example, methane or...
When we put water in a freezer, water molecules crystallize and form ice. This change from one phase of matter to another is called a phase transition. While this transition, and countless others that occur in nature, typically takes place at the same fixed conditions, such as the freezing point, one can ask how it can be influenced in a controlled way.
We are all familiar with such control of the freezing transition, as it is an essential ingredient in the art of making a sorbet or a slushy. To make a cold...
Thin organic layers provide machines and equipment with new functions. They enable, for example, tiny energy recuperators. In future, these will be installed...
Das Zusammenspiel aus Struktur und Dynamik bestimmt die Funktion von Proteinen, den molekularen Werkzeugen der Zelle. Durch Fortschritte in der...
New measurement method allows researchers to precisely follow the movement of individual molecules over long periods of time
The function of proteins – the molecular tools of the cell – is governed by the interplay of their structure and dynamics. Advances in electron microscopy have...
02.10.2018 | Event News
01.10.2018 | Event News
21.09.2018 | Event News
15.10.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
15.10.2018 | Life Sciences
15.10.2018 | Life Sciences