Defensive Whirling Behaviour in an Antillean Daddy-Longlegs Spider (Araneae: Pholcidae)

Christopher K. Starr


Four species of pholcids are known from the Lesser Antilles (Huber 2000). P. globosus is probably introduced by humans and in my experience is found only in buildings. On the other hand, the closely-related Mesolaesthus taino (Guadeloupe and Dominica), M. lemniscatus (St. Vincent) and M. nigrifrons (St. Vincent) are undoubtedly native. In March 2005, I found M. taino to be common at two forest localities in Dominica: at sea level along the Indian River on the leeward side of the island, and at an elevation of about 500-600 m inland from the village of Grand Fond on the windward side. I took the opportunity to physically disturb a number of adult, and apparent subadult individuals in order to note their responses. At the Indian River all nine disturbed spiders showed clear whirling, while above Grand Fond 23 of 35 (66%) did so. Many individuals also (or instead) included in their responses a rapid jerking of the body while walking about the web, a behaviour pattern prominent in disturbed P. globosus (pers. obs.).

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