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Keywords:

  • Araneae;
  • cannibalism;
  • Eresidae;
  • evolution of sociality;
  • kin discrimination;
  • kin recognition;
  • spider;
  • Stegodyphus lineatus;
  • subsocial;
  • tolerance

Evolution of cooperation and group living in spiders from subsocial family groups may be constrained by their cannibalistic nature. A tendency to avoid cannibalizing kin may facilitate tolerance among spiders and implies the ability to identify relatives. We investigated whether the subsocial spider Stegodyphus lineatus discriminates kin by recording cannibalism among juveniles in experiments during which amount of food and size difference among spiders in groups were varied. We hypothesized that family groups should be less cannibalistic than groups of mixed-parental origin. Further, we tested whether food-stress would influence cannibalism rates differently in kin and nonkin groups and the effect of relatedness on cannibalism within groups of spiders of variable size compared with those of homogenous size. In groups of six spiders, more spiders were cannibalized in nonsib groups than in sib groups under low food conditions. A tendency for nonkin biased cannibalism in starved spider pairs supported that kin recognition in S. lineatus is expressed when food is limited. Size variance of individuals within well-fed groups of siblings and unrelated spiders had no influence on cannibalism rates. Apparently, both hunger and high density are important promoters of cannibalism. In addition to inclusive fitness benefits, we suggest that an ability to avoid cannibalizing kin will favour the evolution of cooperation and group living in phylogenetically pre-adapted solitary species.