The adaptive benefits of extended phenotypic plasticity are imprecisely defined due to a paucity of experiments examining traits that are manipulable and measurable across environments. Spider webs are often used as models to explore the adaptive benefits of variations in extended phenotypes across environments. Nonetheless, our understanding of the adaptive nature of the plastic responses of spider webs is impeded when web architectures and silk physicochemical properties appear to co-vary. An opportunity to examine this co-variation is presented by modifying prey items while measuring web architectures and silk physiochemical properties. Here we performed two experiments to assess the nature of the association between web architectures and gluey silk properties when the orb web spider Argiope keyserlingi was fed a diet that varied in either mass and energy or prey size and feeding frequency. We found web architectures and gluey silk physicochemical properties to co-vary across treatments in both experiments. Specifically, web capture area co-varied with gluey droplet morphometrics, thread stickiness and salt concentrations when prey mass and energy were manipulated, and spiral spacing co-varied with gluey silk salt concentrations when prey size and feeding frequency were manipulated. We explained our results as A. keyserlingi plastically shifting its foraging strategy as multiple prey parameters simultaneously varied. We confirmed and extended previous work by showing that spiders use a variety of prey cues to concurrently adjust web and silk traits across different feeding regimes.
- Received September 21, 2016.
- Accepted December 14, 2016.
- © 2016. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd