, Volume 54, Issue 4, pp 416-422
Date: 19 Jun 2003

Kinship and food availability influence cannibalism tendency in early-instar wolf spiders (Araneae: Lycosidae)

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Abstract

For potentially cannibalistic animals such as spiders, the ability to recognize and avoid kin and/or preferentially cannibalize non-relatives would permit exploiting conspecifics as prey while minimizing loss of inclusive fitness. We investigated the effects of relatedness and availability of alternative food on cannibalism tendency in pairs of juvenile Hogna helluo (Walckenaer), a North American wolf spider (Araneae: Lycosidae). For second-instar spiderlings (dispersing stage), cannibalism was more likely among pairs of non-sibs than pairs of sibs and, interestingly, was also more likely when other prey were available. We found no evidence of increased cannibalism in pairings involving broods of greatest average size disparity, indicating that size differences are unlikely to explain differences in cannibalism tendency. Additionally, the relative number of deaths from cannibalism or other causes did not increase with increasing risk of starvation. For third-instar spiderlings, which had lived independently of their mother and sibs following dispersal, cannibalism rates were very high in all treatments and there were no significant effects of relatedness or food availability. Our results suggest that spiders with predominantly solitary lifestyles may bias cannibalism toward non-kin during the juvenile associative period, and that this effect is lost in the subsequent instar. Results are discussed in the context of several potential mechanisms that might result in differential cannibalism.

Communicated by M. Elgar