The flux and allocation of energy and matter (i.e., chemical elements) fundamentally constrains all living organisms. A major factor affecting energy use and biomass construction in living organisms is body size, and metabolic scaling explicitly predicts a size-dependence of many biological and ecological processes for multicellular organisms. A major cost for a web-building spider is the energetic and material investment into a functional web. As web construction affect individual spider metabolism and resource uptake, but also depend on group size, social web construction and maintenance costs might follow principles from economy of scale. This is, larger webs might be less costly in terms of energy and material, and at the same time increase the likelihood to capture more and larger prey than smaller webs, and therefore, living in a group may confer energetic benefits to spiders. In collaboration with Leticia Avilés (University of British Columbia) we are investigating the energetic and material costs of several types of web architectures (i.e., bi-dimensional, tangle, three-dimensional without sheet, three-dimensional with sheet), and social lifestyles.
Photo credit: Alex Wild