Stanislav Korenko
prof. Mgr. Stanislav Pekár, Ph.D.
prof. Mgr. Stano Pekár, Ph.D.

The arms race between specialist predators and their prey has resulted in the evolution of a variety of specific adaptations. In venomous predators, this can include venom composition, particularly if predators are specialized on dangerous prey. Here, we performed an integrative study using six species of highly specialized ant-eating spiders of the genus Zodarion to investigate their phylogeny, realized trophic niche, efficacy in the capture of various ant species and venom composition. Data on natural diet obtained by next-generation sequencing and field observations showed that the six Zodarion species exploit different ant species. Their phylogeny, based on mitochondrial and nuclear genes, correlated with the composition of their natural prey, indicating that closely related Zodarion species specialize on similar ant species. Prey-capture parameters differed among Zodarion species suggesting prey-specific efficacy. Similarly, the venom profiles of both low and high molecular compounds differed among species. Only the profiles of low molecular compounds were  correlated with capture efficacy parameters, suggesting that the venom of Zodarion spiders contains prey-specific components. Our study  suggests that Iberian Zodarion spiders are specialized on particular ant species.

Pekár S., Petráková L., Šedo O., Korenko S. & Zdráhal Z. (2018): Trophic niche, capture efficiency, and venom profiles of six sympatric ant-eating spider species (Araneae: Zodariidae). Mol. Ecol. 27 (4): 1053–1064. DOI: 10.1111/mec.14485