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Spiders may not be the pure predators we generally believe, after a study found that some make up a quarter of their diet by eating pollen.
Dr Dirk Sanders of the University of Exeter demonstrated that orb web spiders — like the common garden variety — choose to eat pollen even when insects are available.
Dr Sanders, alongside Mr Benjamin Eggs from the University of Bern, conducted feeding experiments and a stable isotope analysis on juvenile spiders to see whether they incorporate plant resources into their diet.
They discovered that 25 per cent of the spiders’ food intake was made up of pollen, with the remaining 75 per cent consisting of flying insects.
Benjamin Eggs, Dirk Sanders. Herbivory in Spiders: The Importance of Pollen for Orb-Weavers. PLoS ONE, 2013; 8 (11): e82637 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0082637
Orb-weaver spider in pollen-coated web.