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Concept: Spiders


The current study explored the role of valence and self-relevance in size perception of neutral and aversive animals. In Experiment 1, participants who were highly fearful of spiders and control (low fear of spiders) participants rated the size and unpleasantness of spiders and other neutral animals (birds and butterflies). We found that although individuals with both high and low fear of spiders rated spiders as highly unpleasant, only the highly fearful participants rated spiders as larger than butterflies. Experiment 2 included additional pictures of wasps (not self-relevant, but unpleasant) and beetles. The results of this experiment replicated those of Experiment 1 and showed a similar bias in size estimation for beetles, but not for wasps. Mediation analysis revealed that in the high-fear group both relevance and valence influenced perceived size, whereas in the control group only valence affected perceived size. These findings suggest that the effect of highly relevant stimuli on size perception is both direct and mediated by valence.

Concepts: Scientific method, Insect, Wasp, Spider, Spiders, Phobia, Itsy Bitsy Spider, Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini


Particularly socially influential individuals are present in many groups [1-8], but it is unclear whether their emergence is determined by their social influence versus the social susceptibility of others [9]. The social spider Stegodyphus dumicola shows regional variation in apparent leader-follower dynamics. We use this variation to evaluate the relative contributions of leader social influence versus follower social susceptibility in driving this social order. Using chimeric colonies that combine potential leaders and followers, we discover that leader-follower dynamics emerge from the site-specific social susceptibility of followers. We further show that the presence of leaders increases colony survival in environments where leader-follower dynamics occur. Thus, leadership is driven by the “social susceptibility” of the population majority, rather than the social influence of key group members.

Concepts: Sociology, Management, Leadership, Social psychology, Spider, Social influence, Spiders, Fiedler contingency model


While there are now a number of theoretical models predicting how consistent individual differences in behaviour may be generated and maintained, so far, there are few empirical tests. The social niche specialization hypothesis predicts that repeated social interactions among individuals may generate among-individual differences and reinforce within-individual consistency through positive feedback mechanisms. Here, we test this hypothesis using groups of the social spider Stegodyphus mimosarum that differ in their level of familiarity. In support of the social niche specialization hypothesis, individuals in groups of spiders that were more familiar with each other showed greater repeatable among-individual variation in behaviour. Additionally, individuals that were more familiar with each other exhibited lower within-individual variation in behaviour, providing one of the first examples of how the social environment can influence behavioural consistency. Our study demonstrates the potential for the social environment to generate and reinforce consistent individual differences in behaviour and provides a potentially general mechanism to explain this type of behavioural variation in animals with stable social groups.

Concepts: Scientific method, Psychology, Sociology, Theory, Feedback, Behavior, Social relation, Spiders


Evolutionary dead-end strategies are characterized by short-term productivity benefits and long-term evolutionary costs. Here, I detail a real-time dead-end strategy associated with the behavioural traits of lineage progenitors in the social spider Anelosimus studiosus. Specifically, colony lineages founded by docile spiders were eight times more likely to suffer extinction, despite their superior reproductive output. However, when inquilines were experimentally removed from progenitor colonies, differences in extinction probability among lineages vanished. Similarly, among lineages founded by purely docile or aggressive individuals, the descendants of lineages with the highest reproductive output suffered the lowest survivorship, whereas lineages founded by a mixture of docile/aggressive lacked such a trade-off. Finally, lineages with shorter progenitor-descendant distances gained more inquilines and their descendants had lower survivorship, relative to more diffuse lineages. Overall, this study demonstrates how the traits of lineage progenitors and species interactions can unite to determine the fates of entire lineages.

Concepts: Evolution, Economics, Suffering, Spiders, Colony, Lineage, Fates, Anelosimus studiosus


1.Foraging modalities (e.g., passive, sit-and-wait, active) and traits are plastic in some species, but the extent to which this plasticity affects interspecific competition remains unclear. 2.Using a long-term laboratory mesocosm experiment, we quantified competition strength and the plasticity of foraging traits in a guild of generalist predators of arthropods with a range of foraging modalities. 3.Each mesocosm contained eight passively foraging pink sundews, and we employed an experimental design where treatments were the presence or absence of a sit-and-wait foraging spider and actively foraging toad crossed with five levels of prey abundance. We hypothesized that actively foraging toads would outcompete the other species at low prey abundance, but that spiders and sundews would exhibit plasticity in foraging traits to compensate for strong competition when prey were limited. 4.Results generally supported our hypotheses. Toads had a greater effect on sundews at low prey abundances, and toad presence caused spiders to locate webs higher above the ground. Additionally, the closer large spider webs were to the ground, the greater the trichome densities produced by sundews. Also, spider webs were larger with than without toads and as sundew numbers increased, and these effects were more prominent as resources became limited. Finally, spiders negatively affected toad growth only at low prey abundance. 5.These findings highlight the long-term importance of foraging modality and plasticity of foraging traits in determining the strength of competition within and across taxonomic kingdoms. Future research should assess whether plasticity in foraging traits helps to maintain coexistence within this guild and whether foraging modality can be used as a trait to reliably predict the strength of competitive interactions. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Concepts: Arthropod, Interspecific competition, Experiment, Arachnid, Copyright, Spider, Spiders, Spinneret


Leg autotomy can be a very effective strategy for escaping a predation attempt in many animals. In spiders, autotomy can be very common (5-40% of individuals can be missing legs) and has been shown to reduce locomotor speeds, which, in turn, can reduce the ability to find food, mates, and suitable habitat. Previous work on spiders has focused mostly on the influence of limb loss on horizontal movements. However, limb loss can have differential effects on locomotion on the nonhorizontal substrates often utilized by many species of spiders. We examined the effects of leg autotomy on maximal speed and kinematics while moving on horizontal, 45° inclines, and vertical (90°) inclines in the cellar spider Pholcus manueli, a widespread species that is a denizen of both natural and anthropogenic, three-dimensional microhabitats, which frequently exhibits autotomy in nature. Maximal speeds and kinematic variables were measured in all spiders, which were run on all three experimental inclines twice. First, all spiders were run at all inclines prior to autotomization. Second, half of the spiders had one of the front legs removed, while the other half was left intact before all individuals were run a second time on all inclines. Speeds decreased with increasing incline and following autotomy at all inclines. Autotomized spiders exhibited a larger decrease in speed when moving horizontally compared to on inclines. Stride length decreased at 90° but not after autotomy. Stride cycle time and duty factor increased after autotomy, but not when moving uphill. Results show that both incline and leg autotomy reduce speed with differential effects on kinematics with increasing incline reducing stride length, but not stride cycle time or duty factor, and vice versa for leg autotomy. The lack of a significant influence on a kinematic variable could be evidence for partial compensation to mitigate speed reduction.

Concepts: Classical mechanics, Velocity, Kinematics, Speed, Human leg, Locomotion, Animal locomotion, Spiders


Loxosceles rufescens is a circum-Mediterranean spider species, potentially harmful to humans. Its native area covers the Mediterranean Basin and Near East. Easily spread with transported goods, it is meanwhile an alien and invasive species to nearly all other continents and many islands. This species occurs in semi-arid steppe-like habitats, typically under stones and in cavities, which enables it to settle inside buildings when invading the synanthropic environment. This review analyses the literature of L. rufescens bites to humans (38 publications) of which only 11 publications refer to 11 verified spider bites (10% of the reported bites). Two published allegedly deadly spider bites (Thailand 2014 and Italy 2016) involve non-verified spider bites and are thus not reliable. The symptoms and therapy of these 11 verified bites are described: only five cases showed moderate systemic effects, nine cases developed necrosis, four cases needed surgical debridement, all cases healed without complications within a few weeks. In conclusion, L. rufescens is a spider species globally spread by human activity, it rarely bites humans and the bites are less harmful than often described. There is no known fatal issue.

Concepts: Arthropod, Necrosis, Spider, Debridement, Spiders, Wolf spider, Spider bite, Tarantula


Spider bites as the cause of necrotic skin and soft tissue lesions occur very rarely in Central and Northern Europe. Recluse spiders, distributed almost worldwide, are one of two genera of spiders with confirmed capability of causing necrotic lesions. In the facial region, the resulting defects represent a potential reconstructive challenge, especially in younger patients.

Concepts: Necrosis, Spiders, Wolf spider, Hexathelidae, Spider bite, Tarantula, Brown recluse spider, Chelicerae


Visual stimuli may be selected for priority at different stages within the processing stream, depending on how motivationally relevant they are to the perceiver. Here we examine the extent to which individual differences in motivational relevance of task-irrelevant images (spider, crash, baby, food and neutral) guide eye-movements to a simple “follow the cross” task in 96 participants. We found affective images vs. neutral images to be generally more distracting, as shown by faster first saccade latencies and greater deviation in the final landing position from the target cross. The most arousing images (spider and food), compared to neutral images, showed the largest trajectory deviations of the first saccade. Fear of spiders specifically predicted greater deviation in the final landing position on spider images. These results suggest that attentional biases towards arousing and motivationally relevant stimuli may occur at different processing stages.

Concepts: Visual perception, English-language films, The Target, The Final, Spider, Spiders, Jumping spider, My Little Eye


Despite the clear importance of water balance to the evolution of terrestrial life, much remains unknown about the effects of animal water balance on food webs. Based on recent research suggesting animal water imbalance can increase trophic interaction strengths in cages, we hypothesized that water availability could drive top-down effects in open environments, influencing the occurrence of trophic cascades. We manipulated large spider abundance and water availability in 20 × 20 m open-air plots in a streamside forest in Arizona, USA, and measured changes in cricket and small spider abundance and leaf damage. As expected, large spiders reduced both cricket abundance and herbivory under ambient, dry conditions, but not where free water was added. When water was added (free or within moist leaves), cricket abundance was unaffected by large spiders, but spiders still altered herbivory, suggesting behavioural effects. Moreover, we found threshold-type increases in herbivory at moderately low soil moisture (between 5.5% and 7% by volume), suggesting the possibility that water balance may commonly influence top-down effects. Overall, our results point towards animal water balance as an important driver of direct and indirect species interactions and food web dynamics in terrestrial ecosystems.

Concepts: Photosynthesis, Ecosystem, Hydrology, Trophic level, Food chain, Apex predator, Spider, Spiders