, Volume 48, Issue 3, pp 182-187

Dispersal behaviour in a subsocial spider: group conflict and the effect of food availability

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This study investigates proximate factors influencing dispersal behaviour in the subsocial spider Amaurobius ferox. Dispersal of spiderlings from the natal web occurred as a progressive sigmoidal function (mean duration of dispersal period=31 days), with considerable individual variability in developmental instar and body mass within the clutch at the time of dispersal. The spiderlings showed a significant decrease in group cohesion on the 6th day after their second moult, which corresponded to the beginning of the dispersal period. Mutual aggressiveness appeared when the spiderlings began to show predatory behaviour (4th day post-second moult) and increased over the course of the dispersal period. While lack of prey in the maternal nest accelerated dispersal behaviour, the addition of prey items lengthened the dispersal period in previously non-fed clutches. Individuals that dispersed were smaller than the remaining individuals when measured on the day 50% of the clutch had dispersed. Timing of the appearance of the developmental characters (second moult, predation activity, agonistic behaviour against siblings, reduction of group cohesion, dispersal) suggests that the dispersal trait might have evolved in consequence of these different functional behaviours.

Received: 10 August 1999 / Received in revised form: 15 March 2000 / Accepted: 1 April 2000