, Volume 59, Issue 1, pp 92-100
Date: 16 Aug 2005

Cooperative prey capture by young subsocial spiders

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Matriphagous young of a subsocial spider Amaurobius ferox exhibit collective predation during their post-maternal social period. In this paper, we examine functional mechanisms of collective predation by sibling groups. Predation efficiency increased with increasing number of individuals within each group. Solitary or paired individuals were generally unable to capture a 20 mg cricket. In larger groups, more individuals participated and captured the prey more quickly. Some siblings did not take part in paralyzing prey, but later consumed it. The proportion of these profiteers within a group increased with the group size. Presented with prey of different sizes (1, 5, or 40 mg), siblings were most aggressive towards each other when predating on 5 mg prey. Prey of this size could be captured by a single individual and yet were sufficiently large for more than one individual to eat. Siblings were much less aggressive towards one another during the capture of 40 mg prey, which require the assistance of other individuals to capture. By providing the same mass of prey in different numbers of individuals (a single cricket of 40 or 40 mg of first-instar crickets), we tested the influence of cooperation on the post-maternal social period. We found no difference in the development of young during the social period nor the timing of dispersal and the body mass of dispersing individuals. We conclude that the young of this subsocial animal increased predation efficiency by cooperative hunting after the mother's death.

Communicated by M.A. Elgar