Author(s): H Malli, L KuhnNentwig, H Imboden, W Nentwig
Previous experimental studies have shown that neotropical wandering spiders (Cupiennius salei) inject more venom when attacking larger crickets. It has been postulated that this is a consequence of predator-prey interactions during envenomation, which increase in intensity with the size of a given prey species. The present study was designed to test this hypothesis using anaesthetized crickets of different sizes that were moved artificially. Cupiennius salei was found (1) to inject more venom the greater the intensity of the struggling movement of the crickets (prey size kept constant); (2) to inject more venom the longer the duration of the struggling movement of the crickets (prey size and intensity of movement kept constant); and (3) to inject equal amounts into crickets of different size (duration and intensity of movement kept constant). These results indicate that C. salei alters the amount of venom it releases according to the size and motility of its prey. Venom expenditure depends mainly on the extent of the interactions with the prey during the envenomation process, whereas prey size is of minor significance. The regulation of venom injection in concert with behavioural adaptations in response to various types of prey minimizes the energetic cost of venom production, thus increasing the profitability of a given prey item.