Low propensity for aerial dispersal in specialist spiders from fragmented landscapes

D Bonte, N Vandenbroecke, L Lens, Jean-Pierre Maelfait

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    Aerial dispersal by ballooning is a passive flight, by which wind drag generates an upward lift on a silk thread. It is likely to reflect an aerial lottery, in which the absence of flight direction control is a serious cost for long-distance dispersal in a fragmented landscape. For species occurring in one patchily distributed habitat type, dispersal should evolve in a different way from morphological traits, directly linked to active dispersal. Therefore, we expect that if the risk of landing in an unsuitable habitat is lower than the probability of reaching a suitable habitat, selection should benefit a well-developed ballooning behaviour. We investigated interspecific variation in the ballooning-initiating tiptoe behaviour as it is linked to spider dispersal performance. Our results indeed indicate that ballooning performance is negatively related to habitat specialization in spiders from patchy grey dunes, so habitat specialists are characterized by poorly developed dispersal behaviour. These findings are concordant with recent insights that dispersal is selected as risk spreading in generalists, while it is selected against in specialist species.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalProceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series B
    Issue number1524
    Pages (from-to)1601-1607
    Number of pages7
    Publication statusPublished - 2003

    Thematic list

    • Fauna

    EWI Biomedical sciences

    • B005-zoology


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