Spatio-temporal differentiation and sociality in spiders.
Published Web Locationhttps://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0034592
Species that differ in their social system, and thus in traits such as group size and dispersal timing, may differ in their use of resources along spatial, temporal, or dietary dimensions. The role of sociality in creating differences in habitat use is best explored by studying closely related species or socially polymorphic species that differ in their social system, but share a common environment. Here we investigate whether five sympatric Anelosimus spider species that range from nearly solitary to highly social differ in their use of space and in their phenology as a function of their social system. By studying these species in Serra do Japi, Brazil, we find that the more social species, which form larger, longer-lived colonies, tend to live inside the forest, where sturdier, longer lasting vegetation is likely to offer better support for their nests. The less social species, which form single-family groups, in contrast, tend to occur on the forest edge where the vegetation is less robust. Within these two microhabitats, species with longer-lived colonies tend to occupy the potentially more stable positions closer to the core of the plants, while those with smaller and shorter-lived colonies build their nests towards the branch tips. The species further separate in their use of common habitat due to differences in the timing of their reproductive season. These patterns of habitat use suggest that the degree of sociality can enable otherwise similar species to differ from one another in ways that may facilitate their co-occurrence in a shared environment, a possibility that deserves further consideration.