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The role of spider hunting mode on the strength of spider–plant mutualisms


The strength and outcome of mutualistic interactions can be highly dependent on the combination of traits of the species involved. Distinct foraging strategies (e.g., hunting mode) of mutualistic predators may cause predator–prey interactions to vary, potentially affecting the strength of trophic cascades. We evaluate the causes of variation in the strength of spider–plant mutualisms by focusing on contrasting hunting modes of two spiders: an actively hunting lynx spider (Peucetia sp.) and a sit-and-wait crab spider (Misumenops argenteus). We manipulated spider species composition by assigning each plant to one of the following treatments: (1) no spiders; (2) sit-and-wait spiders only; (3) actively hunting spiders only; (4) actively hunting + sit-and-wait spiders. We then examined the independent and interactive effects of spider species on floral herbivory and fitness of the glandular trichome-bearing plant, Trichogoniopsis adenantha (Asteraceae). Both spider species increased plant fitness by suppressing herbivores and increasing ovary fertilization, but the overall net benefit of spiders was contingent on spider hunting mode. Sit-and-wait spiders promoted stronger positive cascading effects compared to actively hunting spiders. The combination of spider species suppressed herbivores in an additive manner; their combined impact on plant fitness, however, was lower than expected, suggesting that the inter-specific interaction between spiders is slightly antagonistic. Thus, both spider species combined weakened the strength of this spider–plant mutualism. Our findings offer a general framework for understanding the critical role of predator foraging mode in trophic cascades.

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This study strongly benefitted from comments and suggestions by Oswald Schmitz, Jerome Casas and Shelby Rinehart. This project received financial support the Department of Ecology at State University of Sao Paulo (UNESP) at Rio Claro, Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (CNPq) (400892/2014-6), and Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo (BPE-FAPESP #2016/01209-9). B.B.G received a fellowship from Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior (CAPES) and M.F.K-B. received the Young Talent Fellowship from CNPq-Brazil (313955/2014-0). G.Q.R. was supported by CNPq-Brazil research grants.

Author information

BBG, MJOC, and GQR conceptualized the research; BBG conducted the experiments and collected the data; MFKB analyzed the data; MFKB wrote the manuscript with GQR.

Correspondence to Mônica F. Kersch-Becker.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Data is available as electronic supplementary material.

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Communicated by Sven Bacher.

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Kersch-Becker, M.F., Grisolia, B.B., Campos, M.J.O. et al. The role of spider hunting mode on the strength of spider–plant mutualisms. Oecologia 188, 213–222 (2018).

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  • Flower-dwelling spiders
  • Functional diversity
  • Herbivory
  • Predation
  • Trophic cascades