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Web tension and gravity as cues in spider orientation

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The bowl and doily spider, Frontinella pyramitela (Araneae, Linyphiidae), typically hangs at the lowest point on its concave upward, bowlshaped web (Fig. 1). It returns to the same area after prey capture, courtship, or repulsion of intruders, and naive spiders of either sex come to rest at the same “center of preference”.

Because the “center of preference” is not visibly different from other parts of the bowl sheet, it is not obvious what cues the spiders use in establishing its location. Investigation of the roles of gravity, web curvature, thread density and web tension reveals the “center of preference” to be an area no different from others with respect to curvature and thread density but different with respect to tension. Tension in the web is locally high at the “center”, drops as one moves toward the periphery of the bowl, and rises again at the periphery (Fig. 6). The natural relationship between gravity and the orientation of the bowl is not a necessary condition in defining the location of the “center of preference” but gravity is involved in orienting the search for its location (Figs. 3, 4). Altering the pattern of web tension by cutting the tensor threads destroys the accord among spiders as to the location of the “center of preference” and confirms the role of web tension in the orientation of this spider.

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Suter, R.B. Web tension and gravity as cues in spider orientation. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 16, 31–36 (1984). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00293101

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  • Lower Point
  • Prey Capture
  • Natural Relationship
  • Thread Density
  • Doily Spider