a1 Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Balboa, Canal Zone (Panama)
The stabilimentum of orb web spiders is a structure for which several functions, both mechanical and defensive, have been suggested. Argiope argentata (Fabricius) builds a stabilimentum in the form of a white diagonal cross. Analysis of over 2500 webs of this species shows that the perfect cross is seldom built and nearly two thirds of the webs contain no stabilimentum at all. Experiments with wild birds as predators show that they can use stabilimentum-like models in prey location. From these data, and a review of the defensive adaptations of orb web spiders, it is argued that the A. argentata stabilimentum is not an anti-predator device. The evidence for a mechanical function is reviewed and discussed. It is suggested that the stabilimentum provides the spider with a means of making a final adjustment to the mechanical state of the web when this is necessary.
(Received July 07 1969)