, Volume 68, Issue 5, pp 839-850
Date: 20 Mar 2014

Exploring the effects of individual traits and within-colony variation on task differentiation and collective behavior in a desert social spider

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Abstract

Social animals are extraordinarily diverse and ecologically abundant. In understanding the success of complex animal societies, task differentiation has been identified as a central mechanism underlying the emergence and performance of adaptive collective behaviors. In this study, we explore how individual differences in behavior and body size determine task allocation in the social spider Stegodyphus dumicola. We found that individuals with high body condition indices were less likely to participate in prey capture, and individuals’ tendency to engage in prey capture was not associated with either their behavioral traits or body size. No traits were associated with individuals’ propensity to participation in web repair, but small individuals were more likely to engage in standard web-building. We also discovered consistent, differences among colonies in their collective behavior (i.e., colony-level personality). At the colony level, within-colony variation in behavior (aggressiveness) and body size were positively associated with aggressive foraging behavior. Together, our findings reveal a subtly complex relationship between individual variation and collective behavior in this species. We close by comparing the relationship between individual variation and social organization in nine species of social spider. We conclude that intraspecific variation is a major force behind the social organization of multiple independently derived lineages of social spider.

Communicated by J. C. Choe
Carl N. Keiser and Devin K. Jones are the co-first authors.