Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

Although generalist predators catch a great diversity of prey species, foraging theory has mostly been concerned with quantitative aspects and neglected questions about the nutrient quality of prey. Here, we test the hypothesis that the life history of a trap-building predator is affected by both prey availability and by the nutrient quality of prey. Under controlled laboratory conditions, orb-weaving spiders (Zygiella x-notata) were raised from hatchlings to maturity on prey of different nutrient quality and in different amounts. Both prey nutrient quality and availability had significant but different effects on many important life history traits, such as instar duration, number of instars used in the development, body weight at maturation and development time. Prey availability was especially important for growth rates whereas prey nutrient quality had the most severe effects on juvenile survivorship and female fecundity. Furthermore, while prey of low quality tended to reduce the number of instars used in the development, prey availability induced sex-specific responses in instar numbers. Thus, both prey nutrient quality and availability may be important factors shaping the evolution of life history traits in generalist predators.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





631 - 638