Effect of phenology on agonistic competitive interactions between invasive and native sheet-web spiders

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The phenologies of introduced relative to native species can greatly influence the degree and symmetry of competition between them. The European spider Linyphia triangularis (Clerck, 1757) (Linyphiidae) reaches very high densities in coastal Maine (USA). Previous studies suggest that L. triangularis negatively affects native linyphiid species, with competition for webs as one mechanism. We documented phenological differences between L. triangularis and three native species that illustrate the potential for the reversal of size-based competitive advantage over the course of the year. To test whether relative size influences interaction outcome, we allowed a resident spider to build a web and then introduced an intruder. We examined whether the outcomes of agonistic interactions over the webs were influenced by the species of the resident (invasive or native), the relative size of the contestants, and the species × size interaction. We found that the importance of relative size differed among species. In interactions between L. triangularis and each of two native species, size played a greater role than resident species on the outcome of interactions, suggesting that competitive advantage reverses over the season based on phenology-related size differences. Linyphia triangularis had a negative impact on the third species regardless of relative size.

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Canadian Journal of Zoology