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Spider Flexibly Chooses Aggressive Mimicry Signals for Different Prey By Trial and Error

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Portia is a jumping spider that invades other spiders' webs, makes vibratory signals that deceive the resident spider (aggressive mimicry), then attacks and eats the spider. Portia exploits a wide range of prey-spider species. Evidence is provided from observation and experimentation that Portia uses a trial-and-error method as part of its strategy for deriving appropriate signals for different prey. To use this method, Portia first broadcasts an array of different signals, then narrows to particular signals as a consequence of feedback from the prey spider. Feedback can be web vibration or seeing spiders move, or both. This appears to be an example of deception involving at least a limited form of learning, an uncommon phenomenon in invertebrates.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Zoology, University of Canterbury, Christchurch 1, New Zealand; 2: Department of Biology, State University of New York at Binghamton, New York, U.S.A.


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