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Size dependent intraguild predation and cannibalism in coexisting wolf spiders (Araneae, Lycosidae).

ABSTRACT. Two species of wolf spider, Hogna helluo (Walckenaer 1837) and Pardosa milvina Hentz 1844 dominate the predatory community on the soil surface of agroecosystems in eastern North America. Although as adults they are very different in size, differences in phenology ensure that they overlap in size at various times during the year. In a laboratory experiment, we explored the propensity of each species to attack and kill the other wolf spider species (intraguild predation), conspecifics (cannibalism) or crickets (ordinary predation). Both spiders attacked and killed a broader size range of crickets more quickly than they approached other spiders. We found no differences in Hogna foraging on conspecifics or Pardosa, but Pardosa attacked and killed Hogna more readily than conspecifics. Because Hogna was so slow in attacking other spiders, their impact as an intraguild predator may be quite small, especially if their approach to crickets is an indication of their predatory tendencies with insects. On the other hand, Pardosa attacked and killed small Hogna as readily as crickets, which suggests they may have an influence on Hogna populations if Hogna young emerge coincident with large juvenile or adult Pardosa.

Keywords: Cannibalism, intraguild predation, agrobiont spiders, predator-prey


Cannibalism and intraguild predation (IGP) are important to spider communities and have the potential to affect population sizes and/or species diversity of spiders as well as that of potential insect prey (Wagner & Wise 1996; Hodge 1999; Samu et al. 1999; Finke & Denno 2002; Matasumura et al. 2004; Denno et al. 2004). Predation is a dynamic process, the outcome of which depends on the relative sizes of the predator and prey, their physiological state, attack strategy and inherent aggressiveness (Walker et al. 1999; Persons et al. 2001; Buddle 2002; Balfour et al. 2003; Buddle et al. 2003; Mayntz et al. 2005). Many of these factors will shift over time both with age and recent experience and thus the relative importance of cannibalism and/or IGP to foraging individuals, population structure and community composition will shift as well (Wagner & Wise 1996; Balfour et al. 2003; Buddle et al. 2003). For spiders that coexist, an understanding of the situations under which cannibalism and IGP occur is critical to understanding how and when they can persist in the same habitat.

In the present study we explore the predatory tendencies of two species of wolf spider (Araneae, Lycosidae) that coexist on the soil surface in agricultural fields across the eastern portion of North America. Because the species differ in size, activity, and phenology, we wanted to characterize the circumstances under which these spiders engaged in cannibalism or intraguild predation and compare those predatory interactions to attacks on insect prey. Under controlled laboratory conditions, we paired a wide size range of individuals with conspecifics, the other species of spider, or crickets and documented the outcome and timing of predation. In this way, we hoped to gain a better understanding of the specific predatory strategy of each of the spider species and the relative influence that these species have on their insect prey, which would help us to gain insight into the nature of their co-existence.


Study species.--Hogna helluo (Walckenaer 1837) and Pardosa milvina Hentz 1844 coexist on the soil surface in disturbed riparian habitats and agroecosystems throughout the eastern portion of North America (Dondale & Redner 1990; Marshall & Rypstra 1999; Marshall et al. 2002). Pardosa is small (20 mg), active, and can be found at high densities (10-15 per [m.sup.2]) whereas Hogna is large (800 mg), less active, and found at relatively low densities (1-2 per [m.sup.2]) in soybean fields in the midwestern section of the United States (Marshall & Rypstra 1999; Walker et al. 1999; Marshall et al. 2002). Pardosa is an annual species with a mid-July population peak. Except for a relatively short period during which the adults and spiderlings co-occur, the size distribution of Pardosa individuals active in the fields at any given time is fairly narrow (Marshall et al. 2002). On the other hand, Hogna seems to have a two-year life cycle with more stages occurring in the fields at the same time (Marshall et al. 2002). Although Hogna are usually larger than Pardosa, because of the variability in their life cycle, it is possible for large subadult or adult Pardosa to coexist with early stages of Hogna. Previous studies have revealed that each species readily consumes smaller individuals of the other in the laboratory (Persons et al. 2001; Balfour et al. 2003). Here we explore those predatory interactions systematically across a broad range of size ratios.

Both species of spiders were collected from corn and soybean fields at the Miami University Ecology Research Center (Oxford, Butler County, Ohio, USA) and held in the laboratory or reared from animals collected at that site. When not involved in experimentation, spiders were housed individually in translucent plastic cylindrical containers 8 cm in diameter with 5 cm walls with 1-2 cm of damp peat moss covering the bottom. Spiders were watered and fed once or twice weekly on a diet of crickets (Acheta domesticus), fruit flies (Drosophila spp.) and or meal worms (Tenebrio spp.). Containers with spiders were held in an environmental chamber between 23-25[degrees]C on a 12:12 L:D cycle at 60-75% humidity.

Experimental protocol.--Spiders were randomly selected from the laboratory population and brought to standard hunger levels by feeding them ad libitum with Drosophila melanogaster for 2 days. Spiders were then held for 7 days before testing to ensure that they were similarly hungry. Spiders were randomly assigned to be paired with conspecifics (to monitor cannibalism), heterospecifics (to monitor intraguild predation) or crickets (to monitor ordinary predation). Those assigned to be paired with conspecifics were marked with a drop of acrylic paint on the abdomen or cephalothorax so that we could identify individuals. All spiders and crickets were weighed and then introduced into a testing arena simultaneously. The arenas consisted of 14 cm diameter Petri dishes with a base of dampened plaster of Paris (as in Samu et al. 1999). Animals were allowed to interact in the arena for 24 h during which time we recorded if and when predation occurred. Experiments were run in groups that included representatives of all treatments between July 1998 and July 2001.

Statistical analysis.--In order to determine how similar the spiders and insects used in each treatment were, we compared the mass of predators and prey across all treatments in ANOVAs. In addition, we calculated prey/ predator mass ratio (PPR) by dividing the mass of the prey by the mass of the predator. In cases where there was no predation, we randomly assigned one of the spiders as prey and the other as predator using a coin toss algorithm. In order to ensure pairings were similar across treatments, PPRs were also compared in an ANOVA. The effects of predator species, prey type, and PPR on the frequency of predation were compared using a logistic regression analysis. From the logistic regression, we determined the PPR at which there was a 50% likelihood of a predatory event (LR50). Differences in LR50s across treatments were evaluated by comparison of the 95% confidence intervals. The effects of the same factors (predator species, prey type, and PPR) on the time until predation were evaluated using a parametric survival analysis using the Proportional Hazards model. In this case pairwise comparisons were made using the Bonferroni test with an overall P-value of 0.05. Both the logistic regression and survival models were run initially with all interactions included. The non-significant interactions were removed after the first run and the models were run again.

We also wanted to determine if any of the observed preferences were due to size or if they had to be attributed to some other quality of the prey (e.g. nutrition, taste). We hypothesized that, if the preference was size related, then there would be a size ratio ([PPR.sub.critical]) below which predators would not discriminate between prey types. We defined [PPR.sub.critical] as the maximum PPR value where the differences between predation on two prey types were no longer significantly different (P = 0.05). In order to find the [PPR.sub.critical], we started by removing the sample with the highest PPR and rerunning the statistical test, if it was still significant, we removed the sample with the next highest PPR, and ran the test again. We continued this process until the P-value associated with any difference was equal to 0.05.


Overall there were no differences in the mass of the Hogna, Pardosa, or crickets used in our treatments (Predator mass F = 1.81, df = 5, 401, P = 0.11; Prey mass F = 1.02, df = 5, 401, P = 0.40) (Table 1). In addition, animals were paired so that the PPR values were similar across treatments (F = 1.71, df = 5, 401, P = 0.13) (Table 1). Even though not significantly different, the PPR for Hogna on crickets was somewhat higher than the others. To some degree, this variation was intentional as we attempted to observe interactions across the complete prey size range that each spider would take. Note that even though the PPR is close to one, meaning that the prey were the same size as the predator, the capture rate is still very high (94.3%) as compared to other treatments (Table 1). Predator species, prey species and the PPR all affected the occurrence and the timing of predation in complex ways (Table 2).

Predation on crickets vs. spider prey.--Both Hogna and Pardosa had higher capture success on crickets than on spiders (Pardosa: [[chi square].sub.195] = 10.19, P = 0.001; Hogna: [[chi square].sub.209] = 54.54, P < 0.0001; Table 1). Both species killed larger crickets than they killed other spiders (higher PPR) (Fig. 1). However at PPRs less than 0.54 for Pardosa ([PPR.sub.critical], [[chi square].sub.97] = 3.82, P = 0.05) and 0.57 for Hogna ([PPR.sub.critical], [[chi square].sub.74] = 3.46, P = 0.05) there were no differences between spider vs. cricket prey. The process by which we generated the [PPR.sub.critical] inevitably resulted in a loss of sample size, and therefore power, however, we regard the remaining case numbers still large enough ([N.sub.Pardosa] = 98, [N.sub.Hogna] = 75) to draw valid conclusions on [PPR.sub.critical] values. The PPR at which there was a 50% chance of a predatory event (LR50) was significantly higher for crickets than for spider prey (Fig. 2). Likewise, overall crickets were killed more quickly than other spiders (Figs. 1, 3).


Comparing the predation strategy of Hogna and Pardosa.--The two predators differed in their responses to the prey types tested (Table 2). Hogna consistently took larger prey than Pardosa from every prey category (Figs. 1, 2). On the other hand, Pardosa was consistently faster than Hogna in taking every prey type (Figs. 1, 3). Pardosa was more likely to capture Hogna than conspecifics ([[chi square].sub.139] = 5.53, P = 0.018, Table 1) but there was no difference in the capture rate of Hogna on either spider species ([[chi square].sub.131] = 131 5 0.27, NS; Table 1). Likewise, the LR50 was larger for Pardosa preying on Hogna than it was for Pardosa cannibalism (Fig. 2) but there was no difference in the LR50 for Hogna preying on heterospecifics or conspecifics (Fig. 2). Similarly Pardosa captured Hogna more quickly than it captured other Pardosa but there were no differences in the Hogna's predatory speed on conspecifics or heterospecific spiders (Figs. 1, 3).


Clearly these two spider species, Hogna helluo and Pardosa milvina, differ in their foraging behavior across the various sizes of the different prey types tested here. Hogna is generally slower to attack and kill a potential prey but generally take prey in larger size classes than Pardosa. Although Hogna differentiated between crickets and spiders, they did not seem to differentiate between conspecifics and a common coexisting intraguild predator, Pardosa. On the other hand, Pardosa reacted differently to all three prey types; killing larger crickets faster than they killed Hogna and killing larger Hogna faster than they killed conspecifics.

Predation on crickets vs. spider prey.--Both cannibalism and IGP have been extensively documented in wolf spiders (Wagner & Wise 1996; Samu et al. 1999; Balfour et al. 2003; Buddle et al. 2003). Because these interactions carry with them an increased risk of injury and/or reciprocal predation, we expected a different, and perhaps more cautious, predatory approach to other spiders when compared to crickets. We reasoned that the relative size of the prey to its predator (PPR) would be one measure of risk and we found that the PPR at which there was a 50% chance of a predatory event was much higher for crickets than spider prey (Fig. 2). However further exploration of the data reveals that, for both spider species, there was a [PPR.sub.critical] below which there were no differences in the rate of predation on spiders as compared to crickets. Thus, the significant differences in predatory strategy that we observed were due to behavioral shifts that occurred when the prey were large relative to the predator. These results confirm that relative size was more important for spider on spider contests than for attacks of crickets and suggests that both spider species were sensitive to the risk that a large predatory prey item might pose. This connection may be particularly true for Hogna, which easily subdued large crickets but were much slower to take smaller individuals of either spider species (Fig. 2).

Even though risk may be important to the observed differences in predation frequency, there may be other reasons for spiders to prefer insect over spider prey. It has been argued that organisms feeding on the same trophic level, and especially conspecifics, provide nutrients in proportions that are more closely aligned with the predator's nutritional needs (Polis 1981; Wildy et al. 1998; Fagan et al. 2002), however several studies have demonstrated that growth and survival of wolf spiders is lower when maintained on spider diets than when provided with insect prey (Toft & Wise 1999; Oelbermann & Scheu 2002; Matsumura et al. 2004). Another reason not to eat closely related species is that they may carry pathogens that can invade more easily when consumed by a conspecific or phylogenetically close host (Pfennig, et al. 1998; Pfennig 2000; MacNeil et al. 2003). Thus, selection may favor preferences for non-spider prey.

Of course wolf spiders behave differently from crickets, which may have reduced their susceptibility to capture. We attempted to control the circumstances of the interaction so that the predator had access to the same kind of sensory information in a confined space, which should minimize the small differences in capture and escape tactics. Nevertheless, it is impossible to totally uncouple the prey preferences and ease of capture from the specific signals by which the predator detects and identifies prey items (Uetz 2000; Uetz & Roberts 2002). Thus a further exploration of the role of specific sensory modalities in the predator interactions of these species is warranted.

Comparing the predation strategy of Hogna and Pardosa.--A variety of differences between the foraging strategies of Pardosa and Hogna have been documented (Walker et al. 1999; Walker & Rypstra 2002) and this study clarifies some additional aspects of those differences. In particular, although Hogna was the most effective predator on crickets, Pardosa distinguished between the three prey types in the proportion (Table 1), size (Figs. 1, 2) and timing (Figs. 1, 3) of predation. Pardosa is a much more active species than Hogna (Walker et al. 1999; Walker & Rypstra 2002), which might have caused us to predict that they would be more susceptible to predation by other wolf spiders which use motion to detect prey (Persons & Uetz 1997). However, there is no evidence here to demonstrate that activity made Pardosa any more susceptible to the sit and wait predator, Hogna. In fact, it appears here that activity translated into effective search behavior that increased Pardosa's ability to detect and attack more sluggish arthropod prey such as Hogna.

Although not significantly different, the PPRs for Hogna paired with crickets were somewhat higher than the other pairings because of our desire to cover the full size range of prey that each spider would attack. Thus we considered whether the longer capture times observed for Hogna on crickets (Fig. 1) might be due primarily to the fact that they were tested with larger prey items. However, if we compare the mean capture time for crickets larger than the Hogna (PPR > 1.0; n = 19) with the capture times for those prey smaller than the Hogna (PPR < 1.0; n = 51), there was no difference (t = 2.0, P = 0.24). This fact furthers the characterization of Hogna as a slow selective predator that, in the context of the options offered here, prefers large harmless prey. On the other hand, Pardosa was generally faster to attack and discriminated more finely between the three prey options we included in this study.

Implications for species co-existence in the field.--These results may be especially important for agrobiont spiders, such as Hogna and Pardosa, as they may be important agents of biological control. The fact that crickets were more susceptible to predation across a much larger size range than spider prey suggests that the influence that two wolf spider species have on one another may not be exceedingly strong when alternative insect prey are abundant. To fully assess the field importance of these interactions, our findings need to be interpreted in the context of the life history of natural populations. Unfortunately, in spite of existing field surveys (Marshall & Rypstra 1999; Marshall et al. 2002), the life histories of the two species seem to be highly variable and, as a result, are not well enough understood to be predictable. Nevertheless, the available data suggest that Hogna typically has a two or three-year life cycle with several juvenile stages coexisting and Pardosa is an annual species with a narrower size distribution at any given time in the season. Thus, all life stages of Pardosa have the potential of coexisting with larger Hogna whereas only when Hogna spiderlings emerge at times of the year when large juveniles and adult Pardosa are around, do Hogna face predation risk from Pardosa. Although the trials suggest that Hogna exert modest predatory pressure on both conspecifics and Pardosa, their attacks were very slow (Figs. 1, 3). As a consequence, Hogna may not exert much predation pressure on a quick wolf spider like Pardosa that in an open field situation could run away. On the other hand, Pardosa appear to prey on small Hogna as quickly as on crickets, so Hogna that emerge and attempt to go through the first few instars during the early summer, when Pardosa are adults, maybe severely impacted by Pardosa predation. Clearly further explorations of the interactions between these two species in more natural situations are required to fully quantify their influence on one another, the nature of their coexistence and their potential role in the ecosystem.


We would like to thank M. Brueseke, E. Henley, C. Burkett and C.M. Buddle for assistance with execution of experiments. We are grateful to S. Marshall, M. Persons, E Channell, R. Balfour, S.E. Walker, B. Reif, C. Weig, and A. Tolin for ensuring that we had spiders to work with when they were needed. S. Wilder, J. Riem, J. Schmidt and other members of the Miami University spider lab provided useful suggestions on early drafts of this manuscript. F. Samu was Bolyai Fellow of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences whilst this work was conducted. Funding was provided by the following sources: OTKA (Hungary) Grants No. T048434 & F030264, NKFP (Hungary) project No. 6/00013/2005; NSF (USA) grants DEB 9527710, DBI 0216776 & DBI 0216947; Miami University's Philip and Elaina Hampton Fund for Faculty International Initiatives & International Visiting Scholar Fund.

Manuscript received 12 January 2005, revised 15 August 2005.


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Ann L. Rypstra: Department of Zoology, Miami University, 1601 Peck Blvd. Hamilton, Ohio 45011 USA. E-mail:

Ferenc Samu: Department of Zoology, Plant Protection Institute, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, PO Box 102, Budapest, H-1525 Hungary
Table 1.--Summary of the sample size, capture frequency, predator
mass ([+ or -] S.E.), prey mass ([+ or -] S.E.), and prey to predator
mass ratio (PPR [+ or -] S.E.) for each treatment.

Treatments n captured (%)

Hogna on crickets 70 66 (94.3%)
Hogna on Hogna 78 34 (43.6%)
Hogna on Pardosa 54 28 (48.1%)
Pardosa on crickets 64 50 (78.1%)
Pardosa on Hogna 74 44 (59.5%)
Pardosa on Pardosa 66 38 (42.4%)
All Groups 406 260 406 260 (64.1%)

Treatments mass (mg) Prey mass (mg)

Hogna on crickets 14.4 [+ or -] 1.2 14.6 [+ or -] 1.9
Hogna on Hogna 19.2 [+ or -] 1.2 11.7 [+ or -] 1.7
Hogna on Pardosa 19.5 [+ or -] 1.4 9.9 [+ or -] 2.1
Pardosa on crickets 19.6 [+ or -] 1.3 11.1 [+ or -] 1.8
Pardosa on Hogna 17.6 [+ or -] 1.2 9.2 [+ or -] 1.8
Pardosa on Pardosa 19.1 [+ or -] 1.3 12.2 [+ or -] 1.9
All Groups 406 260 18.4 [+ or -] 1.6 11.4 [+ or -] 2.1

Treatments PPR

Hogna on crickets 0.97 [+ or -] 0.11
Hogna on Hogna 0.84 [+ or -] 0.07
Hogna on Pardosa 0.63 [+ or -] 0.05
Pardosa on crickets 0.75 [+ or -] 0.07
Pardosa on Hogna 0.64 [+ or -] 0.06
Pardosa on Pardosa 0.68 [+ or -] 0.06
All Groups 406 260 0.76 [+ or -] 0.03

Table 2.--Results of logistic regression to predict
prey capture and the results of the proportional hazards
survival model to predict the time it took the
spiders to capture prey. Both models used predator
species, prey species and prey to predator mass ratio
(PPR) as predictors.

Source df Chi squared P

Logistic regression model for outcome
 Whole model 7 299.782 <0.0001
 Predator species 1 9.333 0.0023
 Prey species 2 66.809 <0.0001
 PPR 1 82.225 <0.0001
 PPR * predator 1 20.895 <0.0001
 PPR * prey 2 21.807 <0.0001

Survival model for time until capture
 Whole model 9 401.4444 <0.0001
 Predator species 1 8.534 0.0035
 Prey species 2 189.060 <0.0001
 PPR 1 302.410 <0.0001
 PPR * predator 1 36.730 <0.0001
 PPR * prey 2 85.380 <0.0001
 Predator * prey 2 14.433 0.0007
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Author:Rypstra, Ann L.; Samu, Ferenc
Publication:The Journal of Arachnology
Geographic Code:100NA
Date:May 1, 2005
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