Group-living spiders are rare, and can be divided into multiple subcategories based on their tolerance of group mates. While social spiders are cooperative, colonial spiders are often antagonistic towards conspecifics. We examined colony dynamics in a colonial species, Philoponella republicana (Simon, 1891), focusing on aggressive behaviors to further understand this understudied species. We studied whether web region, sex ratio, web size, or spider size affected aggression. We also tested whether colony members discriminate against conspecific intruders, since this behavior, known as group closure, is prevalent in many other group-living animals but had not yet been tested in colonial spiders. Colony mates were often aggressive due to competition for limited resources, such as mates and orb webs, yet several characteristics of this species may reduce these competitive forces. First, female-biased secondary sex ratios appear to reduce male-male and female-male competition. Moreover, although some individuals defended orb webs, other areas in the communal web were not defended. Philoponella republicana also did not exhibit group closure. Our results further confirm that aggression between males decreases in colonies with more female-biased secondary sex ratios, and larger individuals correlate with a higher frequency of aggressive interactions. Moreover, we raise new questions concerning the evolutionary pressures that shape coloniality in spiders.
Table S1.—Effects of inter-colony translocation treatment on responses of Philoponella republicana. - Download file
Table S2.—Results of inter-colony translocation experiment. - Download file