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University of Basel

14 March 2016

More Than Bugs: Spiders Also Like to Eat Vegetarian

Jumping spider Cosmophasis micarioides
Jumping spider Cosmophasis micarioides and golden-tailed spiny ants found in Queensland, Australia: Extra floral nectar attracts ants in large numbers which aggressively defend the nectaries. The spider first hast to break through these defenses to get access to the food. An approaching jumping spider usually first observes the ants from a distance and waits until they briefly leave, before rushing to the nectary (photo by Andrea Lim, James Cook University).

Spiders are known to be the classic example of insectivorous predators. Zoologists from the University of Basel, the US and UK have now been able to show that their diet is more diverse than expected. Their findings show that spiders like to spice up their menu with the occasional vegetarian meal. The Journal of Arachnology has published the results.

The researchers gathered and documented numerous examples from literature of spiders eating plant food. According to their systematic review, spiders from ten families have been reported feeding on a wide variety of different plant types such as trees, shrubs, weeds, grasses, ferns or orchids. They also show a diverse taste when it comes to the type of plant food: nectar, plant sap, honeydew, leaf tissue, pollen and seeds are all on the menu.

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