Smaller colonies and more solitary living mark higher elevation populations of a social spider


Jessica Purcell, Department of Zoology, 6270 University Blvd, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z4, Canada. E-mail:


  • 1There appears to be a pattern of decreasing sociality with increasing elevation across social spider species in the genus Anelosimus at tropical latitudes. Our data suggest that this pattern holds within a single species, Anelosimus eximius, on a smaller altitudinal gradient.
  • 2In comparing colony size at six different altitudes in north-eastern Ecuador, we find that the lowland A. eximius populations tend to have larger colonies and few solitary females. At higher elevations, many of the colonies are small and the proportion of solitary females is greater.
  • 3Contrary to expectation, we also found no difference in spider density between the upper elevation and lowland populations. This result may be partly due to the fact that upper elevation populations occur only at the forest edge (as opposed to both edge and interior) where populations at all elevations appear more robust.