Nav: Home

Temperature helps drive the emergence of different personalities in spiders

July 21, 2016

Like people, animals have personalities. And their personalities differ, sometimes hugely, on traits like shyness and aggressiveness. Among the big questions are where those differences come from, why they exist, and how they are maintained. Now researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have uncovered an unexpected benefit of these personalities: to protect societies from extreme temperature changes.

The work, led in part by Spencer Ingley, a postdoctoral fellow at UNC College of Arts and Sciences, is particularly relevant at a time when the planet's climate is projected to increase on the order of 3 to 12 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100. It could also have far reaching implications on how to restore animals in their different habitats in an increasingly changing world.

"We live in a time of global change," said Ingley. "Scientists are seeing that these changes can have a huge impact on individual organisms and groups of organisms. But people have rarely looked at personalities and how the personalities of groups can alter their response to these changes, particularly in different temperature environments."

This work focused on the tangle web spider, known to scientists as Anelosimus studiosus, which lives in North Carolina and across North and South America. In this species, individual spiders have either one of two personalities: docile or highly aggressive. Together, they not only share the same living space but also share in the duties of brood care and capturing of prey.

Ingley and his team, which included researchers from Israel, Australia, and the U.S., looked at the effect of temperature - 75 to 93 degrees Fahrenheit - on the spiders' ability to survive and reproduce as an individual and within a colony. They found that aggressive spiders were less likely to survive and reproduce at higher temperatures. But the opposite was true for docile spiders: as the temperature heated up, the better they reproduced and survived. The researchers saw the same pattern when the colonies were made up of all aggressive individuals or all docile ones.

But when a colony had different personalities - a mix of aggressive and docile spiders - the aggressive spiders didn't die in hot temperatures and docile ones didn't die in cooler ones.

In other words, not a single aggressive spider was able to reproduce at 93 degrees Fahrenheit and most of them died at that temperature. But when Ingley and his team added docile spiders to the mix, the aggressive spiders thrived in that diverse community at that temperature.

"Some aspect about living in a diverse society shields these aggressive spiders from selective pressures that would otherwise kill them," said Ingley. "Without these diverse personalities, these spider societies would be more susceptible to extreme fluctuations in temperature - and it is interesting to think if our own society could benefit from diversity in a similar way."
-end-


University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Related Spiders Articles:

Spiders and ants inspire a metallic structure that refuses to sink
University of Rochester researchers have created a metallic structure that is so hydrophobic, it refuses to sink - no matter how often it is forced into water or how much it is damaged or punctured.
Compact depth sensor inspired by spiders
Inspired by jumping spiders, researchers at the Harvard John A.
Researchers find hurricanes drive the evolution of more aggressive spiders
Researchers at McMaster University who rush in after storms to study the behavior of spiders have found that extreme weather events such as tropical cyclones may have an evolutionary impact on populations living in storm-prone regions, where aggressive spiders have the best odds of survival.
Baby spiders really are watching you
Baby jumping spiders can hunt prey just like their parents do because they have vision nearly as good.
Solitude breeds aggression in spiders (rather than vice versa)
Spiders start out social but later turn aggressive after dispersing and becoming solitary, according to a study publishing July 2 in the open-access journal PLOS Biology by Raphael Jeanson of the National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) in France, and colleagues.
Spiders risk everything for love
A biology study finds that blue jays can easily spot wolf spiders engaged in their courtship rituals.
Hold the mustard: What makes spiders fussy eaters
It might be one of nature's most agile and calculating hunters, but the wolf spider won't harm an insect that literally leaves a bad taste in its mouth, according to new research by a team of Wake Forest University sensory neuroscientists, including C.J.
Giant Antarctic sea spiders weather warming by getting holey
Scientists have wondered for decades why marine animals that live in the polar oceans and the deep sea can reach giant sizes there, but nowhere else.
Study confirms horseshoe crabs are really relatives of spiders, scorpions
By analyzing troves of genetic data and considering a vast number of possible ways to examine it, University of Wisconsin-Madison scientists now have a high degree of confidence that horseshoe crabs do indeed belong within the arachnids.
Newly discovered wasp turns social spiders into zombies
It sounds like the plot of the world's tiniest horror movie: deep in the Ecuadorian Amazon, a newly discovered species of wasp transforms a 'social' spider into a zombie that abandons its colony to do the wasp's bidding.
More Spiders News and Spiders Current Events

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2019.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Risk
Why do we revere risk-takers, even when their actions terrify us? Why are some better at taking risks than others? This hour, TED speakers explore the alluring, dangerous, and calculated sides of risk. Guests include professional rock climber Alex Honnold, economist Mariana Mazzucato, psychology researcher Kashfia Rahman, structural engineer and bridge designer Ian Firth, and risk intelligence expert Dylan Evans.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#541 Wayfinding
These days when we want to know where we are or how to get where we want to go, most of us will pull out a smart phone with a built-in GPS and map app. Some of us old timers might still use an old school paper map from time to time. But we didn't always used to lean so heavily on maps and technology, and in some remote places of the world some people still navigate and wayfind their way without the aid of these tools... and in some cases do better without them. This week, host Rachelle Saunders...
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dolly Parton's America: Neon Moss
Today on Radiolab, we're bringing you the fourth episode of Jad's special series, Dolly Parton's America. In this episode, Jad goes back up the mountain to visit Dolly's actual Tennessee mountain home, where she tells stories about her first trips out of the holler. Back on the mountaintop, standing under the rain by the Little Pigeon River, the trip triggers memories of Jad's first visit to his father's childhood home, and opens the gateway to dizzying stories of music and migration. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.