Degree Name

MS (Master of Science)



Date of Award


Committee Chair or Co-Chairs

Thomas C. Jones

Committee Members

Darrell Moore, Lev Yampolsky


Niche partitioning is a major component in understanding community ecology and how ecologically similar species coexist. Temporal and spatial partitioning and differences in foraging strategy, including sensitivity to risk (variance), likely contribute to partitioning as well. Here, we approach this partitioning with fine resolution to investigate differences in overall strategy between two species of diurnal, orb-weaving spiders, Verrucosa arenata and Micrathena gracilis (Araneae: Araneidae), that share similar spatial positioning, temporal foraging window, and prey. Through field observation, we found that V. arenata individuals appear to increase spatial and temporal sampling to compensate for an overall risk-prone strategy that depends on the interception and active capture of rare, large prey. Conversely, M. gracilis individuals employ a risk-averse strategy relying on passive capture of small but abundant prey consumed alongside the orb. We have thus identified how differing risk-sensitive foraging strategies may contribute to niche partitioning between otherwise similar species.

Document Type

Thesis - embargo


Copyright by the authors.