Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 32, Issue 5, pp 355–363

Investigation of potential gene flow limitation of behavioral adaptation in an aridlands spider

  • Susan E. Riechert

DOI: 10.1007/BF00183792

Cite this article as:
Riechert, S.E. Behav Ecol Sociobiol (1993) 32: 355. doi:10.1007/BF00183792


This study investigates the possibility that gene flow underlies the apparently maladaptive behavior of a riparian woodland population of the desert spider Agelenopsis aperta with respect to territorial, foraging, and antipredatory behaviors. I found that other local populations of A. aperta in the vicinity of the riparian woodland habitat are prey-limited and exhibit an “aridlands” phenotype (high aggressiveness in competitive interactions over energy-based territories and a lack of discrimination among potential prey types). The riparian woodland population deviates from surrounding populations in the area in that prey are abundant and this population shows a mixture of “aridlands” and “riparian” (low aggressiveness towards conspecifics and discrimination of prey profitability) phenotypes. Electrophoretic analyses of population subdivision in the area indicate that significant levels of gene flow have occurred, at least, sometime in the past. Drift fence analyses of spider movement futher indicate that there is marked unidirectional movement of spiders each year from the more arid habitats into the riparian woodland. Experimental manipulation of gene flow and predation pressure demonstrates that gene flow restricts adaptation in this habitat: one generation of predation pressure in the absence of gene flow is sufficient to cause a marked shift in spider behavior towards the expected “riparian” phenotype.

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • Susan E. Riechert
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of ZoologyUniversity of TennesseeKnoxvilleUSA