Which fighter is best at spinning techniques

biologySocial spiders with personality

A small spider sits in the web, waiting for prey. Suddenly there is a draft that feels like a bird is approaching. A possible threat to the spider

"The spiders then quickly retract all their legs, make themselves very small and no longer move at all. Sometimes they even slide along the web to safety, just away from the danger."

In the experiment, the draft that scares the spider does not come from a bird, but from a small bellows, says biologist Kate Laskowski.

"We then measured how long it takes the spiders to break free from their solidification, i.e. how quickly they face a possible danger again without protection."

The faster it goes, so the interpretation, the "braver" the spider. - Kate Laskowski is actually researching individual behavioral differences in sticklebacks at the Leibniz Institute for Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries in Berlin. But the spiders called Stegodyphus mimosarum seemed better suited to the question that occupied her here.

"These are social spiders from South Africa. They live together in colonies of up to a thousand animals, high up in trees or bushes. This has many advantages for them: For example, they can overwhelm prey for which they would be far too small on their own."

Spider life in the colony

The animals build the net together, defend the colony together and care for the offspring. As long as the colony is not disturbed, the animals stay together, a stable community. Almost ideal for Laskowski's question: She wanted to know whether the individual behavior of animals changes over time when they live in a fixed group of six animals for a long time. The answer:

"The more time the animals had spent together in a nest in the laboratory, namely two, three or four weeks, the clearer the differences between each other became."

Courageous spiders, which freed themselves from their solidification faster in the experiment, became more and more courageous over time, more cautious animals became more and more cautious. This effect became stronger the better the spiders knew their colony colleagues. The same result came when the researchers gaugled the spiders with a piece of paper that an insect had become entangled in the web. The spiders, which ran quickly to their prey, became more and more determined over time. The spiders, which hesitated a long time at the beginning, stayed in the safe cave over time.

"This actually shows that we humans are not really that unique. If we let a group shape our behavior and perhaps complain that others fix us on certain roles, then we follow rules that change in the course of Developed millions of years. What applies to us also applies to these spiders. "

In technical jargon, the researcher calls the phenomenon social nooks and crannies, and that has advantages. A spider that is particularly brave can ultimately defend the colony particularly well against enemies or overwhelm prey. The less courageous, on the other hand, could conserve their strength if they stay behind in the rear, cave-like part of the network structure and take on other, less stressful, but important tasks there.