, Volume 100, Issue 11, pp 1031–1040 | Cite as

Social spiders of the genus Anelosimus occur in wetter, more productive environments than non-social species

  • Marija Majer
  • Ingi Agnarsson
  • Jens-Christian Svenning
  • Trine Bilde
Original Paper


Latitude, rainfall, and productivity have been shown to influence social organisation and level of sociality in arthropods on large geographic scales. Social spiders form permanent group-living societies where they cooperate in brood care, web maintenance, and foraging. Sociality has evolved independently in a number of unrelated spider genera and may reflect convergent evolutionary responses to common environmental drivers. The genus Anelosimus contains a third of approximately 25 described permanently social spider species, eight to nine species that all occur in the Americas. To test for environmental correlates of sociality in Anelosimus across the Americas, we used logistic regression to detect effects of annual rainfall, productivity, and precipitation seasonality on the relative likelihood of occurrence of social and non-social Anelosimus spiders. Our analyses show that social species tend to occur at higher annual rainfall and productivity than non-social species, supporting the hypothesised effects of these environmental variables on the geographical distribution of social species. We did not find support for the hypothesis that permanently social species occur in areas with low precipitation seasonality. High annual precipitation and, to less extent, high productivity favour the occurrence of permanently group-living Anelosimus spiders relative to subsocial and solitary species. These results are partially consistent with previous findings for the Old World spider genus Stegodyphus, where a link between high habitat productivity and sociality was also found. Unlike Anelosimus, however, Stegodyphus typically occur in dry habitats negating a general importance of high precipitation for sociality. Sociality in spiders thus seems to be strongly linked to productivity, probably reflecting the need for relatively high availability of large prey to sustain social colonies.


Social spiders Social environment Anelosimus Distribution range Precipitation Productivity 



This study was supported by grants from The Danish Council for Independent Research to TB (grant number 09-065911) and a travel grant from the Oticon foundation to MM. We would like to thank Laura J. May-Collado for her help with entering the species occurrence data, and Brody Sandel and Michelle Greve for their help with the statistical computation. The authors would like to greatly thank the permanent and visiting members of Ingi Agnarsson's lab for their kind and friendly reception and academic discussion. Constructive comments from three anonymous reviewers helped improve the manuscript.

Supplementary material

114_2013_1106_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (220 kb)
ESM 1 Boxplots of environmental gradients representing the underlying hypotheses for the distribution patterns of American Anelosimus species, for solitary (20 records), subsocial (81 records), transitionally-social (239 records) and social species locality records (93 records). The extremes, the inter-quartile range, and the median are shown for annual precipitation, habitat productivity (GVI) and precipitation seasonality. Scales differ for each of the three variables (see Methods). (PDF 220 kb)
114_2013_1106_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (209 kb)
ESM 2 Performance of logistic regression models predicting social vs. transitionally-social Anelosimus species occurrences (93 social: 239 transitionally-social). The Akaike scores (AIC), differences (∂AIC) and weights of each model (w i ) are given. Four spatial filters were included in all the models to account for spatial autocorrelation in the data. Abbreviations used for the predictors are: GVI for vegetation index, PREmean for mean annual precipitation, PREseas for precipitation seasonality. In bold the Akaike weights of the best supported models. (PDF 209 kb)
114_2013_1106_MOESM3_ESM.pdf (204 kb)
ESM 3 Multimodel coefficient estimates for all three environmental predictors across the models (Appendix 2). Given are the coefficient estimates based on the standardised coefficient and model weights (Multimodel β = Std. β*wi), odds of being more social (outcome 1 in all models), and the relative coefficient support in each model set based on the sums the Akaike weights of the models containing each predictor (Appendix 2). (PDF 203 kb)
114_2013_1106_MOESM4_ESM.pdf (236 kb)
ESM 4 Model coefficients from each of the models from Table 2 contrasting social and non-social Anelosimus spp (a); and social vs. subsocial Anelosimus spp (b). (PDF 236 kb)
114_2013_1106_MOESM5_ESM.pdf (206 kb)
ESM 5 Correlation matrices of predictor variables in the dataset of Anelosimus occurrences. (PDF 206 kb)
114_2013_1106_MOESM6_ESM.pdf (137 kb)
ESM 6 Variance inflation factors (VIFs) for predictors in the dataset of Anelosimus occurrences (PDF 136 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marija Majer
    • 1
  • Ingi Agnarsson
    • 2
  • Jens-Christian Svenning
    • 1
  • Trine Bilde
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BioscienceAarhus UniversityAarhus-CDenmark
  2. 2.Department of BiologyUniversity of VermontBurlingtonUSA

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