In the Yucatan Peninsula, the tarantula Brachypelma vagans Ausserer 1875 is commonly associated with human settlements, as are the scorpions Centruroides gracilis Latreille 1804 and C. ochraceus Pocock 1898. Nonetheless, scorpions are virtually absent from villages showing a high density of tarantulas. Predatory interactions between these predators could explain the lack of local overlap. To test this hypothesis, we observed the behavioral interactions between B. vagans and C. gracilis or C. ochraceus in experimentally controlled conditions, and we compared these interactions to interactions between the tarantula and two prey species: cricket and cockroach. For observations, a pre-adult tarantula was placed in an experimental arena in which we introduced either a scorpion or an insect. In all, 115 trials were performed. We recorded time elapsed and behavioral responses: avoidance, attack, escape, capture, and attack success. Tarantulas preyed on all prey with the same attack success (63.8% ± 0.8%), but they attacked and captured cockroaches quicker and more often than the other prey (87% vs. 50%, and 57% vs. 30%, respectively). Scorpions attacked tarantulas in 25.5% of occasions, but they were never successful, and were killed in 9% of occasions. We conclude that tarantulas are potential predators of scorpions. Moreover, in villages where tarantulas are abundant they might prevent the presence of scorpions. Thus the presence of this non-aggressive tarantula may be beneficial from the human perspective.
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Vol. 39 • No. 1