When and why do sit-and-wait social spiders disperse?

In: Israel Journal of Ecology and Evolution

Abstract

Dispersal is inherent to all living organisms. Sit-and-wait predators such as social spiders, with their sedentary lifestyles, present an intriguing and underexplored case to examine the proximate and ultimate reasons for dispersal. Though a reduction in dispersal tendencies must accompany the evolution of sociality in spiders, a fraction of the colony may disperse in groups or individually in many species. Such group or solitary dispersal by female social spiders in specific life stages, can lead to colony fission or colony foundation. Males move between colonies, however, there are no direct estimations of male dispersal distances for any species. The structured populations and high inbreeding within colonies suggest that dispersal events occur over limited spatial scales and may be mediated by extrinsic and intrinsic factors. Future studies exploring complex relationships between environmental variables, phenotypes of individuals, colony state and dispersal are advocated. Another area of interest is probing the dispersal process itself to understand the mechanisms of information transfer between individuals at the onset of dispersal. This involves designing studies to examine how break-away groups reach a consensus on when to disperse and where to go.

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