Subsocial behaviour and brood adoption in mixed-species colonies of two theridiid spiders

Lena Grinsted*, Ingi Agnarsson, Trine Bilde

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Cooperation and group living often evolves through kin selection. However, associations between unrelated organisms, such as different species, can evolve if both parties benefit from the interaction. Group living is rare in spiders, but occurs in cooperative, permanently social spiders, as well as in territorial, colonial spiders. Mixed species spider colonies, involving closely related species, have rarely been documented. We examined social interactions in newly discovered mixed-species colonies of theridiid spiders on Bali, Indonesia. Our aim was to test the degree of intra- and interspecific tolerance, aggression and cooperation through behavioural experiments and examine the potential for adoption of foreign brood. Morphological and genetic analyses confirmed that colonies consisted of two related species Chikunia nigra (O.P. Cambridge, 1880) new combination (previously Chrysso nigra) and a yet undescribed Chikunia sp. Females defended territories and did not engage in cooperative prey capture, but interestingly, both species seemed to provide extended maternal care of young and indiscriminate care for foreign brood. Future studies may reveal whether these species adopt only intraspecific young, or also inter-specifically. We classify both Chikunia species subsocial and intra- and interspecifically colonial, and discuss the evolutionary significance of a system where one or both species may potentially benefit from mutual tolerance and brood adoption.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1021-1030
Number of pages10
Issue number12
Early online date24 Oct 2012
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2012


  • Commensalism
  • Communal spiders
  • Cooperative foraging
  • Extended maternal care
  • Mutualism
  • Social evolution


Dive into the research topics of 'Subsocial behaviour and brood adoption in mixed-species colonies of two theridiid spiders'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this