Evolutionary dead-end strategies are characterized by short-term productivity benefits and long-term evolutionary costs. Here, I detail a real-time dead-end strategy associated with the behavioural traits of lineage progenitors in the social spider Anelosimus studiosus. Specifically, colony lineages founded by docile spiders were eight times more likely to suffer extinction, despite their superior reproductive output. However, when inquilines were experimentally removed from progenitor colonies, differences in extinction probability among lineages vanished. Similarly, among lineages founded by purely docile or aggressive individuals, the descendants of lineages with the highest reproductive output suffered the lowest survivorship, whereas lineages founded by a mixture of docile/aggressive lacked such a trade-off. Finally, lineages with shorter progenitor-descendant distances gained more inquilines and their descendants had lower survivorship, relative to more diffuse lineages. Overall, this study demonstrates how the traits of lineage progenitors and species interactions can unite to determine the fates of entire lineages.
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