July cover 2023

A macrophotograph of a drop of water hanging from a leaf of barley, through which the field beyond can be seen inverted. Weather conditions can markedly change conditions in cereal crops with profound effects for the foraging of invertebrate predators such as spiders. Using dietary DNA metabarcoding, we show that the trophic interactions of spiders change depending on weather conditions. This, to some degree, reflects changes in the local prey communities in response to weather changes, but spiders selectively consume different prey irrespective of their abundances, possibly facilitated by concomitant changes to their web structures. Using prey preference data from one year to predict trophic interactions in another, we show that this understanding can help refine predictions of trophic interactions between years, but that weather does not perfectly explain foraging ecology. By improving our understanding of the interaction between weather and foraging, we can better predict how ecological networks respond to weather conditions and future climate change.

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