Exposure to predators reduces collective foraging aggressiveness and eliminates its relationship with colony personality composition Academic Article uri icon

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  • Predation is a ubiquitous threat that often plays a central role in determining community dynamics. Predators can impact prey species by directly consuming them, or indirectly causing prey to modify their behavior. Direct consumption has classically been the focus of research on predator-prey interactions, but substantial evidence now demonstrates that the indirect effects of predators on prey populations are at least as strong as, if not stronger than, direct consumption. Social animals, particularly those that live in confined colonies, rely on coordinated actions that may be vulnerable to the presence of a predator, thus impacting the society's productivity and survival. To examine the effect of predators on the behavior of social animal societies, we observed the collective foraging of social spider colonies (Stegodyphus dumicola) when they interact with dangerous predatory ants either directly, indirectly, or both. We found that when colonies were exposed directly and indirectly to ant cues, they attacked prey with approximately 40-50% fewer spiders, and 40-90% slower than colonies that were not exposed to any predator cues. Furthermore, exposure to predatory ants disassociated the well-documented positive relationship between colony behavioral composition (proportion of bold spiders) and foraging aggressiveness (number of attackers) in S. dumicola, which is vital for colony growth. Thus, the indirect effects of predator presence may limit colony success. These results suggest that enemy presence could compromise the organizational attributes of animal societies.


  • Wright, Colin M
  • Lichtenstein, James LL
  • Montgomery, Graham A
  • Luscuskie, Lauren P
  • Pinter-Wollman, Noa
  • Pruitt, Jonathan

publication date

  • August 2017