Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 61, Issue 11, pp 1743–1750 | Cite as

Cooperative breeding increases reproductive success in the social spider Stegodyphus dumicola (Araneae, Eresidae)

  • Mor SalomonEmail author
  • Yael Lubin
Original Paper


Sociality in some birds, mammals, and social insects was suggested to have evolved through the lengthening and extension of parental care behaviors to nondirect descendents. In these systems, group members care for young cooperatively and, thus, increase the reproductive success of the breeders and fitness of the young. Parental care behaviors, such as regurgitation feeding and matriphagy (consumption of the mother), occur in several subsocial and social spiders. However, it is not known whether females in a colony cooperate in caring for the young of other females and whether such cooperative care improves reproductive success. To answer this question, we created experimental colonies of the social spider Stegodyphus dumicola (Araneae, Eresidae), allowing only one female in a group to produce young, simulating reproductive skew occurring in nests in nature. In this paper, we show for the first time that females of S. dumicola cooperate in providing regurgitated food for young of other females and are even eaten by those young. Young raised by a group of females were larger and had greater survival than young raised only by their mother. Thus, fitness benefits from raising broods cooperatively may have favored the evolution of sociality in spiders.


Cooperative breeding Social spider Reproductive success Parental care 



We thank Yaniv Botner, Iris Musli, Tharina Bird, Johannes and Inga Henschel, Klaus Birkhofer, and Trine Bilde for assistance in fieldwork, acquiring research permits and translation of manuscripts; Daphna Gottlieb, Tamar Kessar, Arnon Lotem, Jutta Schneider, and Mary Whitehouse for reading and commenting on the manuscript, and David Saltz for help with statistical analysis. The project was supported by grants from Sigma Xi, Explorer’s Club, and the American Arachnology Society to MS in 2004 and 2005. A research permit was provided by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism of Namibia (permit nos. 739/2003 and 874/2005). This is publication no. 562 of the Mitrani Department of Desert Ecology.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Life Sciences Department, Faculty of Natural SciencesBen-Gurion University of the NegevBeer-ShevaIsrael
  2. 2.Mitrani Department of Desert Ecology, Blaustein Institute for Desert researchBen-Gurion University of the Negev, Sede Boqer CampusMidreshet Ben-GurionIsrael

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