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Community ecology of the Social Spider Anelosimus studiosus

The spiderAnelosimus studiosus is known for its remarkable social behavior, with up to 50 spiders sharing a web and cooperating to capture large prey. We have seen a surprising number of other arthropod species associated with A. studiosus webs, including many species of spiders in several different families, hemipteran bugs, wasps, beetles, and moth larvae. This has led me to explore the evolutionary origins and ecological consequences of social behavior in spiders. In particular, I suspect that the proximate mechanism that allows many A. studiosus individuals to coexist in a web is a partial loss or dulling of recognition labels in the species (so that they do not respond aggressively to stimuli that would have triggered responses in nonsocial ancestors). If this is true, then it may be that other arthropod species are exploiting the compromised recognition abilities of A. studiosus. We are doing some sampling to first determine whether A. studiosus webs do indeed harbor more species than do those of other sympatric spiders. A. studiosus webs are relatively easy to survey because they tend to be built around individual branches, compared to other species that build webs between branches. In fact, this difference suggests an alternative explanation for a greater number of A. studiosus commensals, namely, that the web architecture of A. studiosus better lends itself to heterospecific exploitation.


Social Spiders Anelosimus studiosus

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