Animal personality aligns task specialization and task proficiency in a spider society Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • Classic theory on division of labor implicitly assumes that task specialists are more proficient at their jobs than generalists and specialists in other tasks; however, recent data suggest that this might not hold for societies that lack discrete worker polymorphisms, which constitute the vast majority of animal societies. The facultatively social spider Anelosimus studiosus lacks castes, but females exhibit either a "docile" or "aggressive" phenotype. Here we observed the propensity of individual females of either phenotype to perform various tasks (i.e., prey capture, web building, parental care, and colony defense) in mixed-phenotype colonies. We then measured the performance outcomes of singleton individuals of either phenotype at each task to determine their proficiencies. Aggressive females participated more in prey capture, web building, and colony defense, whereas docile females engaged more in parental care. In staged trials, aggressive individuals were more effective at capturing prey, constructing webs, and defending the colony, whereas docile females were more effective at rearing large quantities of brood. Thus, individuals' propensity to perform tasks and their task proficiencies appear to be adaptively aligned in this system. Moreover, because the docile/aggressive phenotypes are heritable, these data suggest that within-colony variation is maintained because of advantages gleaned by division of labor.

publication date

  • July 1, 2014