Certain Spider Species are Becoming Social and Smarter
While most of the world’s 50,000 spider species are overwhelmingly non-social, a new study has identified a few that are living together and sharing resources.
Furthermore, the genes of these social and “subsocial” spiders are similar to those found in other social animals.
The study, published in Nature Communications, noted that the social spiders’ nervous systems were significantly more sophisticated than their isolated counterparts. Professor Alexander Mikheyev of the Australian National University and co-authors note while spiders don’t have brains, information is distributed by neurons throughout their bodies.
While rare, the genes associated with sociability in spiders have independently evolved several times.
Interestingly, the study found substitutions in one gene in a handful of spider species that are not closely related. Other genetic research into insects, often the study of bees, has not found this large of overlap in the genes associated with social evolution in species from different lineages.
While some social animals hunt together, this doesn’t seem to be the reason some spiders become social. In fact, social and subsocial spiders are believed to have colonized purely out of necessity.
“To a large extent we are seeing a tolerance rather than cooperation… they are very aggressive, so it does not take a lot to attack each other” Mikheyev told IFLScience. “For spiders to even share space is a challenge, let alone letting others partake in their hunting work.”
Some animals live and work in communal harmony as seen in apes and other primates. Others, like the spider, begrudgingly share limited food and nesting resources. Either way, there’s little doubt that sociability is making them smarter.
Tags: · Alexander Mikheyev, Australian National University, bees, gene, genetic research, genetic substitutions, genetics, IFLScience, insects, Nature Communications, social, social animals, spiders, subsocial, top