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THE ROLE OF EXPERIENCE IN DETERMINING PATCH-USE BY ADULT CRAB SPIDERS

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I tested the role of the previous substrate in hunting-patch choice using a sit-and-wait predator, the crab spider Misumena vatia. Adult females that hunted on flowers of common milkweed Asclepias syriaca and pasture rose Rosa carolina differed in their subsequent choices of these substrates as a consequence of both the species of flower encountered and their recent experience with these flowers. In six-hour tests, individuals taken from both milkweed and rose flowers and later returned to the same species of flower remained and hunted on these sites in similar frequencies. However, spiders from milkweed placed on rose remained significantly less frequently than spiders from rose placed on milkweed or spiders returned to their accustomed flower species. A higher proportion of individuals that left their sites did so more quickly from accustomed than from unfamiliar flower species. Capture of prey increased the probability that a spider would remain during the test period, but even spiders not capturing prey showed the trends noted above. These results demonstrate that immediately previous experiences can modify patch-choice behavior in ways that significantly affect the foraging success of an individual, with important consequences for lifetime fitness.

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