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Health

Social spiders with different personality types perform specific tasks within the colony.

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Photo: Flickr/Joe LappFirst of all, how many of us knew there were social spiders? Not me! It turns out that some spiders form colonies. These colonies are remarkably different from those of ants and bees -- instead of "castes" of workers and queens, social spider colonies are composed of equals who are all capable of mating. However, there seem to be at least two types of social female spiders, aggressive and docile, and these differences can be passed down to future generations. Not only do these little gals have different personalities, but each personality type has specific jobs to do to keep the colony growing: "In staged trials, aggressive individuals were more effective at capturing prey, constructing webs, and defending the colony, whereas docile females were more effective at rearing large quantities of brood." Which spider personality are you? Buzzfeed quiz coming soon!Animal personality aligns task specialization and task proficiency in a spider society. "Classic theory on division of labor implicitly assumes that task specialists are more proficient at their jobs than generalists and specialists in other tasks; however, recent data suggest that this might not hold for societies that lack discrete worker polymorphisms, which constitute the vast majority of animal societies. The facultatively social spider Anelosimus studiosus lacks castes, but females exhibit either a “docile” or “aggressive” phenotype. Here we observed the propensity of individual females of either phenotype to perform various tasks (i.e., prey capture, web building, parental care, and colony defense) in mixed-phenotype colonies. We then measured the performance outcomes of singleton individuals of either phenotype at each task to determine their proficiencies. Aggressive females participated more in prey capture, web building, and colony defense, whereas docile females engaged more in parental care. In staged trials, aggressive individuals were more effective at capturing prey, constructing webs, and defending the colony, whereas docile females were more effective at rearing large quantities of brood. Thus, individuals’ propensity to perform tasks and their task proficiencies appear to be adaptively aligned in this system. Moreover, because the docile/aggressive phenotypes are heritable, these data suggest that within-colony variation is maintained because of advantages gleaned by division of labor." Related content: NCBI ROFL: Hard core spiders fight better after self-castration. NCBI ROFL: Note to self: keep "squashed spider contents" out of eyes. NCBI ROFL: It was as big as my head, I swear! Biased spider size estimation in spider phobia.

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