Remote monitoring of vibrational information in spider webs.
Mortimer B., Soler A., Siviour CR., Vollrath F.
Spiders are fascinating model species to study information-acquisition strategies, with the web acting as an extension of the animal's body. Here, we compare the strategies of two orb-weaving spiders that acquire information through vibrations transmitted and filtered in the web. Whereas Araneus diadematus monitors web vibration directly on the web, Zygiella x-notata uses a signal thread to remotely monitor web vibration from a retreat, which gives added protection. We assess the implications of these two information-acquisition strategies on the quality of vibration information transfer, using laser Doppler vibrometry to measure vibrations of real webs and finite element analysis in computer models of webs. We observed that the signal thread imposed no biologically relevant time penalty for vibration propagation. However, loss of energy (attenuation) was a cost associated with remote monitoring via a signal thread. The findings have implications for the biological use of vibrations by spiders, including the mechanisms to locate and discriminate between vibration sources. We show that orb-weaver spiders are fascinating examples of organisms that modify their physical environment to shape their information-acquisition strategy.