Spider’s personality matters when job hunting

Boldest individuals of social species tasked with seeking out prey

MARKED FOR HUNTING  Stegodyphus sarasinorum spiders (shown) rely on personality traits to divvy up jobs. The boldest individuals,  identified by patterns painted on them, tended to capture prey.

Courtesy of Lena Grinsted

The career choices of one type of social spider depend on its personality. Character wins out over factors such as age or body size in shaping the spider’s job prospects, researchers report July 31 in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Lena Grinsted of Aarhus University in Denmark and colleagues marked more than 600 Stegodyphus sarasinorum spiders with brightly colored paint to identify individuals. Then the team gave the spiders a personality quiz.

Researchers measured spiders’ boldness by blasting them with a puff of air and aggression by prodding them with a stick. Bold spiders froze when they first felt the air but quickly recovered. Aggressive spiders struck a threatening pose after feeling the stick.

Then the team let the spiders build nests for hiding and webs for capturing prey. When the researchers wiggled a leaf in the webs to mimic a struggling insect, the boldest spiders hustled out to investigate. The findings bolster the idea that spider colonies are not homogenous societies where everyone contributes in the same way, the authors suggest.

Meghan Rosen is a staff writer who reports on the life sciences for Science News. She earned a Ph.D. in biochemistry and molecular biology with an emphasis in biotechnology from the University of California, Davis, and later graduated from the science communication program at UC Santa Cruz.

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