Ecological role of a flower-dwelling predator in a tri-trophic interaction in northwestern Patagonia
GAVINI, SABRINA S.; QUINTERO, CAROLINA; TADEY, MARIANA
ACTA OECOLOGICA-INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF ECOLOGY
Año: 2019 vol. 95 p. 100 - 107
Flower-dwelling predators may play several ecological roles depending on their effects on the reproductive success of the plants that they use to forage. However, tri-trophic interactions often are context-dependent highlighting the importance of assessing both the overall top-down effect on plant fitness and predator behavioral and physiological attributes that shape that outcome. We studied the effect of the flower-dwelling crab spider Misumenops pallidus on the perennial herb Anemone multifida in a low-thicket in Northwestern Patagonia. We measured pollinator visitation frequency, florivory rate, plant fitness, spider abundance, and spider´s physiological (e.g. camouflage) and behavioral attributes (e.g. host selection, fidelity) that aid to define its possible ecological role. Misumenops pallidus showed a generalist diet (mostly pollinators), camouflage strategies, and intraspecific selection for plants bearing higher number and longer trichomes. Additionally, it displayed host-fidelity with long periods of permanence in the selected host plant, occupying ∼25% of plant population. However, the presence of these spiders did not affect pollinator visitation rate, florivory or plant fitness, indicating a commensalism role. Our findings suggested that the asymmetric benefit in this plant-spider association may be attributed to a combination of factors. In particular, the low-to-moderate spider abundance, generalist diet and cryptic camouflage; all of which weaken the top-down effect on pollinators and plant fitness, especially whenever ecological redundant pollinators are present. However, temporal and/or spatial variation on spider population might enhance this asymmetric benefit for the spider, potentially changing its role from commensalism to antagonism.