Traditionally viewed as a predator of insects, a new study has revealed that spiders like to spice up their menu occasionally with a vegetarian meal.
The study showed evidence of spiders from ten families feeding on a wide variety of different plant types such as trees, shrubs, weeds, grasses, ferns or orchids.
Also, these spiders demonstrated a diverse taste when it comes to the type of plant food: Nectar, plant sap, honeydew, leaf tissue, pollen and seeds are all on the menu.
As plant-dwelling, highly mobile foragers with excellent capability to detect suitable plant food, these spiders seems to be predestined to include some plant food in their diets.
Spiders diversifying their diet with plants are advantageous as it provides them with additional nutritional supplements and helps them survive when the insects are scarce, said the study detailed in the Journal of Arachnology.
"The ability of spiders to derive nutrients from plants is broadening the food base of these animals; this might be a survival mechanism helping spiders to stay alive during periods when insects are scarce," said study lead author Martin Nyffeler from University of Basel in Switzerland.
However, the extent to which the different categories of plant food contribute to the spiders’ diet is still largely unexplored.
Although spiders feeding on plants are global in its extent, it is reported more frequently from warmer areas, the study said.
The researchers suggested that it might be due to the fact that a larger number of the reports relate to nectar consumption, which has its core distribution in warmer areas where plants secreting large amounts of nectar are widespread.