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Am Nat. 1998 Sep;152(3):403-18. doi: 10.1086/286178.

Colony size and individual fitness in the social spider Anelosimus eximius.

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Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona 85721, USA.


The effects of colony size on individual fitness and its components were investigated in artificially established and natural colonies of the social spider Anelosimus eximius (Araneae: Theridiidae). In the tropical rain forest understory at a site in eastern Ecuador, females in colonies containing between 23-107 females had india significantly higher lifetime reproductive success than females in smaller colonies. Among larger colonies, this trend apparently reversed. This overall fitness function was a result of the conflicting effects of colony size on different components of fitness. In particular, the probability of offspring survival to maturity increased with colony size while the probability of a female reproducing within the colonies decreased with colony size. Average clutch size increased with colony size when few or no wasp parasitoids were present in the egg sacs. With a high incidence of egg sac parasitoids, this effect disappeared because larger colonies were more likely to be infected. The product of the three fitness components measured-probability of female reproduction, average clutch size, and offspring survival-produced a function that is consistent with direct estimates of the average female lifetime reproductive success obtained by dividing the total number of offspring maturing in a colony by the number of females in the parental generation. Selection, therefore, should favor group living and intermediate colony sizes in this social spider.

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