Plant–animal interactions between carnivorous plants, sheet-web spiders, and ground-running spiders as guild predators in a wet meadow community

James J. Krupa, Kevin R. Hopper, Samuel B. Gruber, Jason M. Schmidt, James D. Harwood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Plant–animal interactions are diverse and widespread shaping ecology, evolution, and biodiversity of most ecological communities. Carnivorous plants are unusual in that they can be simultaneously engaged with animals in multiple mutualistic and antagonistic interactions including reversed plant–animal interactions where they are the predator. Competition with animals is a potential antagonistic plant–animal interaction unique to carnivorous plants when they and animal predators consume the same prey. The goal of this field study was to test the hypothesis that under natural conditions, sundews and spiders are predators consuming the same prey thus creating an environment where interkingdom competition can occur. Over 12 months, we collected data on 15 dates in the only protected Highland Rim Wet Meadow Ecosystem in Kentucky where sundews, sheet-web spiders, and ground-running spiders co-exist. One each sampling day, we attempted to locate fifteen sites with: (a) both sheet-web spiders and sundews; (b) sundews only; and (c) where neither occurred. Sticky traps were set at each of these sites to determine prey (springtails) activity–density. Ground-running spiders were collected on sampling days. DNA extraction was performed on all spiders to determine which individuals had eaten springtails and comparing this to the density of sundews where the spiders were captured. Sundews and spiders consumed springtails. Springtail activity–densities were lower, the higher the density of sundews. Both sheet-web and ground-running spiders were found less often where sundew densities were high. Sheet-web size was smaller where sundew densities were high. The results of this study suggest that asymmetrical exploitative competition occurs between sundews and spiders. Sundews appear to have a greater negative impact on spiders, where spiders probably have little impact on sundews. In this example of interkingdom competition where the asymmetry should be most extreme, amensalism where one competitor experiences no cost of interaction may be occurring.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4762-4772
Number of pages11
JournalEcology and Evolution
Issue number11
StatePublished - Jun 1 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 The Authors. Ecology and Evolution published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


  • amensalism
  • asymmetrical competition
  • carnivorous plants
  • dwarf sundews
  • exploitative competition
  • ground-running spiders
  • interkingdom competition
  • plant–animal interactions
  • sheet-web spiders

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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