Many species display sociality only transiently during their life cycle. For example, spiderlings at their earliest developmental stage show mutual attraction and social tolerance before they disperse. This strongly contrasts with post-dispersal, solitary adult spiders that behave aggressively toward — and sometimes even cannibalize — other spiders. The onset of dispersal coincides with a sharp decline in social tolerance in many animals, but the causal relationship still remains poorly understood.
To address this question, Jeanson and his colleagues used a combination of behavioral, chemical and modeling approaches in spiderlings of a solitary species (Agelena labyrinthica, the labyrinth spider) to investigate the mechanisms controlling the developmental switch leading to the decline of social cohesion and the loss of tolerance.
Violette Chiara, Felipe Ramon Portugal, Raphaël Jeanson.
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