• gene flow;
  • kin selection;
  • mating system;
  • migration;
  • polymorphic allozyme;
  • sociality


We characterized the population genetic structure of the Australian social spider Diaea ergandros using polymorphic allozyme markers. Our main objectives were to understand the social organization of D. ergandros and discern patterns of gene flow across distantly separated geographical areas. Spiders were sampled from nests located within 100 m wide locales, which were distributed within larger 50 km wide regions. Our results indicated that nestmates could have been produced by a single mother and father in 88.9% of D. ergandros nests. The remainder of nests contained spiders that were probably produced by polyandrous females or were immigrants from foreign nests. Nestmate relatedness was relatively high (r = 0.44) and did not differ significantly between the sexes or among juvenile, subadult and adult life stages. We also discovered that D. ergandros populations were highly structured, with significant differentiation detected among locales (FLR = 0.23) and regions (FRT = 0.081). Spiders within locales were also substantially inbred (FIL = 0.15). Overall, our data show that significant population subdivision exists in D. ergandros populations, and we suggest that the poor dispersal ability of Diaea spiders can account for the observed genetic structure.