Participation in cooperative prey capture and the benefits gained from it are associated with individual personality
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In animal societies, behavioral idiosyncrasies of the individuals often guide which tasks they should perform. Such personality-specific task participation can increase individual task efficiency, thereby improving group performance. While several recent studies have documented group-level benefits of within-group behavioral (i.e., personality) diversity, how these benefits are realized at the individual level is unclear. Here we probe the individual-level benefits of personality-driven task participation in the social spider Stegodyphus dumicola. In S. dumicola, the presence of at least one highly bold individual catalyzes foraging behavior in shy colony members, and all group constituents heavily compete for prey. We assessed boldness by examining how quickly spiders resumed normal movement after a simulated predator attack. We test here whether (1) participants in collective foraging gain more mass from prey items and (2) whether bold individuals are less resistant to starvation than shy spiders, which would motivate the bold individuals to forage more. Next, we assembled colonies of shy spiders with and without a bold individual, added one prey item, and then tracked the mass gain of each individual spider after this single feeding event. We found that spiders that participated in prey capture (whether bold or shy) gained more mass than nonparticipators, and colonies containing a single bold spider gained more total mass than purely shy colonies. We also found that bold spiders participated in more collective foraging events and were more susceptible to starvation than shy spiders, suggesting that the aggressive foraging of bold individuals may represent a strategy to offset starvation risk. These findings add to the body of evidence that animal personality can shape social organization, individual performance, and group success.
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