Trophic structure of the spider community of a Mediterranean citrus grove: A stable isotope analysis

Laia Mestre, Josep Piñol, José Antonio Barrientos, Xavier Espadaler, Katrin Brewitt, Christiane Werner, Christian Platner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


Spiders are dominant terrestrial predators that consume a large variety of prey and engage in intraguild predation. Although the feeding habits of certain species are well known, the trophic structure of spider assemblages still needs to be investigated. Stable isotope analysis enables characterisation of trophic relationships between organisms because it tracks the energy flow in food webs and indicates the average number of trophic transfers between a given species and the base of the web, thus being a useful tool to estimate the magnitude of intraguild predation in food webs. Using this technique, we studied the trophic groups of spiders and their links within the arthropod food web of a Mediterranean organic citrus grove. We assessed the trophic positions of the 25 most common spider species relative to other arthropod predators and potential prey in the four seasons of the year, both in the canopy and on the ground. The analyses showed great seasonal variation in the isotopic signatures of some arthropod species, as well as the existence of various trophic groups and a wide range of trophic levels among spiders, even in species belonging to the same family. Differences in δ15N between spiders and the most abundant prey in the grove usually spanned two trophic levels or more. Our findings provide field evidence of widespread intraguild predation in the food web and caution against using spider families or guilds instead of individual species when studying spider trophic interactions. © 2013 Gesellschaft für Ökologie.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)413-422
JournalBasic and Applied Ecology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2013


  • δ C 13
  • δ N 15
  • Agroecosystem
  • Ants
  • Food web
  • Intraguild predation
  • Trophic niche


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