Toggle Main Menu Toggle Search

Open Access padlockePrints

Temporal variation in spider trophic interactions is explained by the influence of weather on prey communities, web building and prey choice

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Jordan CuffORCiD, Dr Fredric WindsorORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


© 2023 The Authors. Ecography published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Nordic Society Oikos.Generalist invertebrate predators are sensitive to weather conditions, but the relationship between their trophic interactions and weather is poorly understood. This study investigates how weather affects the identity and frequency of spider trophic interactions over time, alongside prey community structure, web characteristics and prey choice. Spiders (Linyphiidae and Lycosidae) and their prey were collected from barley fields in Wales, UK, from April to September 2017–2018. The gut contents of 300 spiders were screened using DNA metabarcoding, analysed via multivariate models and compared against prey availability using null models. When linyphiids were collected from webs, the height and area of webs were recorded and compared against weather conditions. Trophic interactions changed over time and with weather conditions, primarily related to concomitant changes in prey communities. Spiders did, however, appear to mitigate the effects of structural changes in prey communities through changing prey preferences according to prevailing weather conditions, possibly facilitated by adaptive web construction. Using these findings, we demonstrate that prey choice data collected under different weather conditions can be used to refine inter-annual predictions of spider trophic interactions, although prey abundance was secondary to diversity in driving the diet of these spiders. By improving our understanding of the interaction between trophic interactions and weather, we can better predict how ecological networks are likely to change over time in response to variation in weather conditions and, more urgently, global climate change.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Cuff JP, Windsor FM, Tercel MPTG, Bell JR, Symondson WOC, Vaughan IP

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Ecography

Year: 2023

Volume: 2023

Issue: 7

Print publication date: 01/07/2023

Online publication date: 15/06/2023

Acceptance date: 20/04/2023

Date deposited: 20/04/2023

ISSN (print): 0906-7590

ISSN (electronic): 1600-0587

Publisher: John Wiley and Sons Inc


DOI: 10.1111/ecog.06737


Altmetrics provided by Altmetric


Funder referenceFunder name
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust
Natural Environment Research Council