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One bold, misinformed spider slows a colony’s ability to learn

Wrong-headed notions prove more dangerous in certain personality types

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11:54am, June 17, 2015
colonies of velvet spiders

ONE BOLD IDIOT  In colonies of velvet spiders (shown), one bold spider with misinformation can be a disaster.

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The wrong-headed notions of an influential individual can make a group sluggish in learning from its mistakes, even among spiders.

Velvet spiders (Stegodyphus dumicola) with bold behavior but incorrect information were bad influences on their colonies, researchers reported June 11 at the annual conference of the Animal Behavior Society. Spider growth faltered in these colonies because the naïve group mates were slow to catch on to bold ones’ errors. In contrast, misinformed shier spiders didn’t undermine their colonies’ prospects.

The bold idiots could be considered “keystone individuals,” says study coauthor Jonathan Pruitt, a behavioral ecologist at the University of Pittsburgh. Other research has documented the existence of such disproportionately influential

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