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Testing for collective choices in the two-spotted spider mite

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Silk is a vector for collective behaviour in many spinning arthropods, including social spiders, social caterpillars, and some spider mites. In this study, the potential for silk-mediated collective choices is evaluated for the two-spotted spider mite Tetranychus urticae. This subsocial mite lives in large colonies on plants, sheltered under a collectively spun silk web. The silk has an attractive and arresting effect. We test whether the silk trails left by the spider mites can give rise to the collective choice of a path. The experiment consists in offering two identical paths to a group of migrating mites. Our results show that the presence of a silk trail influences the mites, but not sufficiently to systematically provoke a collective choice. In order to determine the trail following potential of T. urticae, we parameterise a theoretical trail following model to fit our experiments and those found in the literature. Our prediction is that even after a large number of mites have passed (200), a systematic collective choice of path should not be expected under the tested conditions. Our results, combined with what is known from the literature, allow us to propose a general scenario for the dispersal behaviour of T. urticae.

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A. A. F. and G. C are supported by a grant from the FRIA (Fonds pour la Formation à la RecherchedansIndustrie et l’Agriculture). A-C. M. is supported by IRSIB (Institutd’encouragement de la RechercheScientifique et de l’Innovation de Bruxelles). J.L.D. is a research associate from the Belgian National Funds for Scientific Research. The authors are also indebted to the National Fund for Scientific Research (FNRS, Belgium) for funding this project through the Fund for Fundamental and Collective Ressearch (FRFC, convention 2.4622.06). We thank Dr. T. Van Leeuwen who provided the mite strain used in the experiments and M. Pirnay for building cages and the lighting system. We also thank D. Lalor for proofreading the manuscript and G.Le Goff for his assistance during the experiments. Finally, many thanks to S. Yano for his useful comments and suggestions regarding the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Aina Astudillo Fernandez.

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Astudillo Fernandez, A., Hance, T., Clotuche, G. et al. Testing for collective choices in the two-spotted spider mite. Exp Appl Acarol 58, 11–22 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10493-012-9558-5

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  • Tetranychus urticae
  • Silk
  • Collective choice
  • Aggregation
  • Binary choice
  • Trail