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Concept: Araneomorphae


In this paper more than 50 incidences of bats being captured by spiders are reviewed. Bat-catching spiders have been reported from virtually every continent with the exception of Antarctica (∼90% of the incidences occurring in the warmer areas of the globe between latitude 30° N and 30° S). Most reports refer to the Neotropics (42% of observed incidences), Asia (28.8%), and Australia-Papua New Guinea (13.5%). Bat-catching spiders belong to the mygalomorph family Theraphosidae and the araneomorph families Nephilidae, Araneidae, and Sparassidae. In addition to this, an attack attempt by a large araneomorph hunting spider of the family Pisauridae on an immature bat was witnessed. Eighty-eight percent of the reported incidences of bat catches were attributable to web-building spiders and 12% to hunting spiders. Large tropical orb-weavers of the genera Nephila and Eriophora in particular have been observed catching bats in their huge, strong orb-webs (of up to 1.5 m diameter). The majority of identifiable captured bats were small aerial insectivorous bats, belonging to the families Vespertilionidae (64%) and Emballonuridae (22%) and usually being among the most common bat species in their respective geographic area. While in some instances bats entangled in spider webs may have died of exhaustion, starvation, dehydration, and/or hyperthermia (i.e., non-predation death), there were numerous other instances where spiders were seen actively attacking, killing, and eating the captured bats (i.e., predation). This evidence suggests that spider predation on flying vertebrates is more widespread than previously assumed.

Concepts: Bat, Spider, Mygalomorphae, Microbat, Orb-weaver spider, Tarantula, Araneomorphae, Vesper bat


Spiders (Order Araneae) are massively abundant generalist arthropod predators that are found in nearly every ecosystem on the planet and have persisted for over 380 million years. Spiders have long served as evolutionary models for studying complex mating and web spinning behaviors, key innovation and adaptive radiation hypotheses, and have been inspiration for important theories like sexual selection by female choice. Unfortunately, past major attempts to reconstruct spider phylogeny typically employing the “usual suspect” genes have been unable to produce a well-supported phylogenetic framework for the entire order. To further resolve spider evolutionary relationships we have assembled a transcriptome-based data set comprising 70 ingroup spider taxa. Using maximum likelihood and shortcut coalescence-based approaches, we analyze eight data sets, the largest of which contains 3,398 gene regions and 696,652 amino acid sites forming the largest phylogenomic analysis of spider relationships produced to date. Contrary to long held beliefs that the orb web is the crowning achievement of spider evolution, ancestral state reconstructions of web type support a phylogenetically ancient origin of the orb web, and diversification analyses show that the mostly ground-dwelling, web-less RTA clade diversified faster than orb weavers. Consistent with molecular dating estimates we report herein, this may reflect a major increase in biomass of non-flying insects during the Cretaceous Terrestrial Revolution 125-90 million years ago favoring diversification of spiders that feed on cursorial rather than flying prey. Our results also have major implications for our understanding of spider systematics. Phylogenomic analyses corroborate several well-accepted high level groupings: Opisthothele, Mygalomorphae, Atypoidina, Avicularoidea, Theraphosoidina, Araneomorphae, Entelegynae, Araneoidea, the RTA clade, Dionycha and the Lycosoidea. Alternatively, our results challenge the monophyly of Eresoidea, Orbiculariae, and Deinopoidea. The composition of the major paleocribellate and neocribellate clades, the basal divisions of Araneomorphae, appear to be falsified. Traditional Haplogynae is in need of revision, as our findings appear to support the newly conceived concept of Synspermiata. The sister pairing of filistatids with hypochilids implies that some peculiar features of each family may in fact be synapomorphic for the pair. Leptonetids now are seen as a possible sister group to the Entelegynae, illustrating possible intermediates in the evolution of the more complex entelegyne genitalic condition, spinning organs and respiratory organs.

Concepts: Evolution, Insect, Phylogenetic nomenclature, Phylogenetic tree, Phylogenetics, Cladistics, Spider, Araneomorphae


Although it is well known that spatial learning can be important in the biology of predators that actively move around in search for food, comparatively little is known about ways in which spatial learning might function in the strategies of sit-and-wait predators. In this study, Cyclosa octotuberculata, an orb-web spider that uses its legs to contract radial threads of its web to increase thread tension, was trained to capture prey in limited web sectors. After training, spiders that had captured prey in horizontal web sectors applied more tension on radial threads connected to horizontal sectors than spiders that had captured prey in vertical sectors. This result suggests that the effect of experience on C. octotuberculata’s behaviour is not expressed in the way the trained spider responds to prey-derived stimuli and is instead expressed in behaviour by which the spider anticipates the likely direction from which prey will arrive in the future. This illustrates that learning can be important even when the predator remains in one location during foraging bouts.

Concepts: Predation, Knowledge, Optimal foraging theory, Spider, Spider web, Orb-weaver spider, Araneomorphae, Ambush predator


The extraordinary mechanical properties of spider dragline silk are dependent on the highly repetitive sequences of the component proteins, major ampullate spidroin 1 and 2 (MaSp2 and MaSp2). MaSp sequences are dominated by repetitive modules composed of short amino acid motifs; however, the patterns of motif conservation through evolution and their relevance to silk characteristics are not well understood. We performed a systematic analysis of MaSp sequences encompassing infraorder Araneomorphae based on the conservation of explicitly defined motifs, with the aim of elucidating the essential elements of MaSp1 and MaSp2. The results show that the GGY motif is nearly ubiquitous in the two types of MaSp, while MaSp2 is invariably associated with GP and di-glutamine (QQ) motifs. Further analysis revealed an extended MaSp2 consensus sequence in family Araneidae, with implications for the classification of the archetypal spidroins ADF3 and ADF4. Additionally, the analysis of RNA-seq data showed the expression of a set of distinct MaSp-like variants in genus Tetragnatha. Finally, an apparent association was uncovered between web architecture and the abundance of GP, QQ, and GGY motifs in MaSp2, which suggests a co-expansion of these motifs in response to the evolution of spiders' prey capture strategy.

Concepts: Oxygen, Amino acid, Acid, Insect, Sequence, Spider silk, Spider, Araneomorphae


Araneomorph spiders have evolved different silks with dissimilar material properties, serving different purposes. The two-compound pyriform secretion is used to glue silk threads to substrates or to other threads. It is applied in distinct patterns, called attachment discs. Although ubiquitously found in spider silk applications and hypothesized to be strong and versatile at low material consumption, the performance of attachment discs on different substrates remains unknown. Here, we analyse the detachment forces and fracture mechanics of the attachment discs spun by five different species on three different substrates, by pulling on the upstream part of the attached thread. Results show that although the adhesion of the pyriform glue is heavily affected by the substrate, even on Teflon it is frequently strong enough to hold the spider’s weight. As plant surfaces are often difficult to wet, they are hypothesized to be the major driving force for evolution of the pyriform secretion.

Concepts: Species, Materials science, Arachnid, Silk, Spider silk, Spider, Spinneret, Araneomorphae


The theraphosid spider genera Heterophrictus Pocock, 1900 and Neoheterophrictus Siliwal & Raven, 2012 are rediagnosed in this paper and a new genus, Sahydroaraneus gen. nov. is described from Southern Western Ghats. Four new species (two each of Heterophrictus and Neoheterophrictus) and one of Sahydroaraneus gen. nov. are described from the Western Ghats. Plesiophrictus mahabaleshwari Tikader, 1977 is removed from the synonymy of Heterophrictus milleti Pocock, 1900 and is treated as a junior synonym of Heterophrictus blatteri (Gravely, 1935). Plesiophrictus bhori Gravely, 1915 is transferred to the genus Neoheterophrictus, Neoheterophrictus bhori (Gravely, 1915) new combination. The genus, Sahydroaraneus gen. nov., resembles tarantula belonging to the genus, Neoheterophrictus but differs with respect to structure of tibial apophysis and spermathecae. Detailed ultra-structure of setae type of the Indian Eumenophorinae is presented for the first time along with notes on their biogeography. Common elements among Africa, Madagascar and India like the Eumenophorinae and several other mygalomorph spiders advocate mygalomorphae as an important group for evolutionary investigation due to their inability for long distance dispersal rendering the members restrictive in distribution.

Concepts: Arthropod, Western Ghats, Spider, Mygalomorphae, Hexathelidae, Spider bite, Tarantula, Araneomorphae


Spiders show a repertoire of strategies to increase their foraging success. In particular, some orb-weaver spiders use attractive body colorations to lure prey. Interestingly, coloration varies with age in many species, which may result in ontogenetic variation of foraging success. By using field observations, laboratory experiments and spectrophotometric analysis, we investigated whether pale juveniles and bright adults of the orb-weaver Alpaida tuonabo use different foraging strategies due to ontogenetic variation in coloration. Field observations revealed that foraging success of juveniles and adults was influenced by web properties. However, foraging success increased with body size only in adults, supporting the idea that larger individuals produce a stronger visual signal for prey. The attractiveness of the adult coloration for prey was confirmed in the laboratory with frame-web-choice experiments, in which webs bearing a spider intercepted more bees than empty webs. Our spectrophotometric analysis suggests that the yellow coloration may produce the deceiving signal for prey. Moreover, we identified potential alternative foraging strategies: cryptic juveniles at higher heights and ‘attractive’ adults at lower heights. This study reveals how ontogenetic colour variation may favour the use of alternative foraging strategies in orb-weaver spiders and reduces intraspecific competition.

Concepts: Insect, Arthropod, Color, Experiment, Spider, Spider web, Orb-weaver spider, Araneomorphae


Spiders from the family Scytodidae have a unique prey capturing technique - they spit a zig-zagged silken glue to tether prey to a surface. Effectiveness of this sticky mixture is based on a combination of contraction and adhesion trapping prey until the spider immobilizes it by envenomation and then feeds. We identify components expressed in Scytodes thoracica venom glands using combined transcriptomic and proteomic analyses. These include homologs of toxic proteins astacin metalloproteases and potentially toxic proteins including venom allergen, longistatin and translationally controlled tumor protein (TCTP). We classify 19 distinct groups of candidate peptide toxins; 13 of these were detected in the venom making up 35% of the proteome. Six have significant similarity to toxins from spider species spanning mygalomorph and non-haplogyne araneomorph lineages, suggesting their expression in venom is phylogenetically widespread. Twelve peptide toxin groups have homologs in venom gland transcriptomes of other haplogynes. Of the transcripts, approximately 50% encode glycine-rich peptides that may contribute to sticky fibers in Scytodes spit. Fifty-one percent of the identified venom proteome is a family of proteins that is homologous to sequences from Drosophila sp. and Latrodectus hesperus with uncharacterized function. Characterization of these components holds promise for discovering new functional activity.

Concepts: Protein, Peptide, Proteomics, Toxin, Spider, Mygalomorphae, Spider bite, Araneomorphae


Abstract Spiders of the tropical American colonial orb weaver Parawixia bistriata form a communal bivouac in daytime. At sunset, they leave the bivouac and construct individual, defended webs within a large, communally built scaffolding of permanent, thick silk lines between trees and bushes. Once spiders started building a web, they repelled other spiders walking on nearby scaffolding with a “bounce” behavior. In nearly all cases (93%), this resulted in the intruder leaving without a fight, akin to the “bourgeois strategy,” in which residents win and intruders retreat without escalated contests. However, a few spiders (6.5%) did not build a web due to lack of available space. Webless spiders were less likely to leave when bounced (only 42% left) and instead attempted to “freeload,” awaiting the capture of prey items in nearby webs. Our simple model shows that webless spiders should change their strategy from bourgeois to freeloading satellite as potential web sites become increasingly occupied.

Concepts: Arthropod, World Wide Web, Arachnid, Web 2.0, Spider, Spider web, Orb-weaver spider, Araneomorphae


Four new species of the orb-weaving spider genus Alpaida O. P.-Cambridge, 1889 from Rio de Janeiro state, Brazil are illustrated and described based on males and females from the following municipalities: Alpaida imperatrix new species (Macaé and Rio de Janeiro); Alpaida imperialis new species (Mendes and Rio de Janeiro); Alpaida marista new species (Mendes and Pinheiral); and Alpaida mendensis new species (Mendes). Furthermore, two new synonymies are herein proposed: Alpaida lanei Levi, 1988 = Alpaida atomaria (Simon, 1895) and Alpaida caxias Levi, 1988 = Alpaida tijuca Levi, 1988, alongside new records for both species and also Alpaida venger Castanheira Baptista, 2015.

Concepts: Insect, Brazil, São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Spider, Spider web, Orb-weaver spider, Araneomorphae