Kleptoparasites: a twofold cost of group living for the colonial spider,Metepeira incrassata(Araneae, Araneidae)

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Several species of kleptoparasitic and araneophagic spiders (Araneae: Family Theridiidae, Subfamily Argyrodinae) are found in colonial webs of the orb-weaving spider Metepeira incrassata (Araneae, Araneidae) from Mexico, where they steal food and/or prey upon their spider hosts. Census data from natural M. incrassata colonies reveal that the incidence of these species increases with colony size. This pattern may reflect the presence of several other orb-weaving spiders, each with their own kleptoparasitic species, invading larger M. incrassata colonies. As the number of these associated spiders increases, so does the density and number of Argyrodinae species in M. incrassata colonies, suggesting that associated spiders might reduce their own kleptoparasite load by building their webs within M. incrassata colonies. This represents a twofold cost to M. incrassata, as a field enclosure experiment revealed that a primarily kleptoparasitic species (Argyrodes elevatus) may reduce prey available to their hosts, but a kleptoparasitic/araneophagic species (Neospintharus concisus) inflicts high mortality upon M. incrassata. However, the cost of kleptoparasitism and predation by these species may be offset in part for M. incrassata individuals in large colonies by certain defensive mechanisms inherent in groups, i.e., “attack-abatement” and “selfish herd” effects. We conclude that increased occurrence of kleptoparasitic and/or predatory Argyrodinae spiders is a consequence of colonial web building and is an important potential cost of group living for colonial web-building spiders.

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