Spiders of the genus Cupiennius Simon 1891 (Araneae, Ctenidae). II. On the vibratory environment of a wandering spider

Publication Type:Journal Article
Year of Publication:1988
Authors:Barth, FG, Bleckmann, H, Bohnenberger, J, Seyfarth, E-A
Keywords:Cupiennius, sensory ecology, Spider, Vibratory environment

Cupiennius salei (Ctenidae) is a tropical wandering spider which lives in close association with a particular type of plant (see companion paper). These plants are the channels through which the spiders receive and emit various types of vibrations. We measured the vibrations the spiders are typically exposed to when they sit on their dwelling plants (banana plant, bromeliad) in their natural biotope in Central America. In addition a laboratory analysis was carried out to get an approximate idea of the complex vibration-propagating properties of the dwelling plants, taking a banana plant as an example. (1) Types of vibrations (Figs. 1 4). Despite variability in detail there are characteristic differences in spectral composition between the vibrations of various abiotic and biotic origins: (a) Vibrations due to wind are very low frequency phenomena. Their frequency spectra are conspicuously narrow with prominent peaks close to or, more often, below 10 Hz. Vibrations due to raindrops show maximal acceleration values at ca. 1000 Hz. Their frequency band at - 2 0 dB extends up to ca. 250 Hz whereas that of the vibrations due to wind extends to only ca. 50 Hz. (b)The frequency spectra of prey vibrations such as those generated by a running cockroach are typically broad-banded and contain high frequencies; they have largest peaks mostly between ca. 400 and 900 Hz. Their - 2 0 dB frequency bands usually extend from a few Hz to ca. 900 Hz. Some potential prey animals such as grasshoppers seem to be vibrocryptic; they walk by the spider as if unnoticed. Their "cautious" gait leads to only weak vibrations at very low frequencies resembling the background noise due to wind. Courtship signals are composed mainly of low frequencies, intermediate between background noise and prey vibrations (male: prominent peaks at ca. 75 Hz and ca. 115 Hz; female: dominant frequencies between ca. 20 Hz and ca. 50 Hz). The male signal is composed of "syllables" and differs from all other vibrations studied here by being temporally highly ordered. A comparison with previous electrophysiological studies suggests that the high pass characteristics of the vibration receptors enhance the signal-to-(abiotic)-noise ratio and that the vibraion-sensitive interneurons so far examined and found to have band pass characteristics are tuned to the frequencies found in the vibrations of biotic origin. (2) Signal propagation (Fig. 5). In terms of frequency-dependent attenuation of vibrations the banana plant is well suited for transmitting the above signals. Average attenuation values are ca. 0.35 dB/cm. Together with known data on vibration receptor sensitivity this explains the range of courtship signals of more than 1 m observed in behavioral studies. Attenuation in the plant is neither a monotonic function of frequency nor of distance from the signal source.

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