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Reproductive success in a socially polymorphic spider: social individuals experience depressed reproductive success in isolation


Thomas C. Jones, Department of Biological Sciences, East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, TN 37604, U.S.A. E-mail:


1. Correlated individual differences in behaviour across ecological contexts, or behavioural syndromes, can theoretically constrain individuals' ability to optimally adjust their behaviour for specific contexts.

2. Female Anelosimus studiosus exhibit a unique behavioural polymorphism: ‘social’ females are tolerant of conspecifics and aggregate in multi-female colonies, while ‘solitary’ females aggressively defend their singleton webs from intrusion by adult female conspecifics. Previous work found that social females are also less aggressive toward prey and are more fearful of predators.

3. In this study we quantify potential fitness consequences of these correlated behaviours by examining the potential and realised fecundities of the two phenotypes in naturally occurring colonies, and by quantifying their ability to rear offspring as singleton individuals.

4. There were no differences in the fecundities of laboratory-reared females between the phenotypes, nor were there differences in field-collected brooding females from naturally occurring solitary and social nests.

5. Brooding females from solitary and social colonies that were isolated in new nests for the growing season were both capable of rearing their broods; however, females from solitary nests had significantly greater success.

6. These results suggest a fitness consequence to the reduced-aggression syndrome of social females that may represent a general impediment to the evolution of sociality in spiders.