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Abstract

Species that alternate periods of solitary and social living may provide clues to the conditions that favor sociality. Social spiders probably originated from subsocial-like ancestors, species in which siblings remain together for part of their life cycle but disperse prior to mating. Exploring the factors that lead to dispersal in subsocial species, but allow the development of large multigenerational colonies in social species, may provide insight into this transition. We studied the natal dispersal patterns of a subsocial spider, Anelosimus cf. jucundus, in Southeastern Arizona. In this population, spiders disperse from their natal nests in their penultimate and antepenultimate instars over a 3-mo period. We tracked the natal dispersal of marked spiders at sites with clustered vs. isolated nests. We found that most spiders initially dispersed less than 5 m from their natal nests. Males and females, and spiders in patches with different densities of nests, dispersed similar distances. The fact that both sexes in a group dispersed, the lack of a sex difference in dispersal distance, and the relatively short distances dispersed are consistent with the hypothesis that natal dispersal results from resource competition within the natal nest, rather than inbreeding avoidance in competition for mates. Additionally, an increase in the average distance dispersed with time and with the number of spiders leaving a nest suggests that competition for nest sites in the vicinity of the natal nest may affect dispersal distances. The similar distances dispersed in patches with isolated vs. clustered nests, in contrast, suggest that competition among dispersers from different nests may not affect dispersal distances.