The age and evolution of sociality in Stegodyphus spiders: a molecular phylogenetic perspective

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  • Jes Johannesen, Germany
  • Yael Lubin, Israel
  • Deborah R. Smith, United States
  • T. Bilde
  • Jutta M. Schneider, Germany
  • Department of Biological Sciences, Genetics and Ecology
Social, cooperative breeding behaviour is rare in spiders and generally characterized by inbreeding, skewed sex ratios and high rates of colony turnover, processes that when combined may reduce genetic variation and lower individual fitness quickly. On these grounds, social spider species have been suggested to be unstable in evolutionary time, and hence sociality a rare phenomenon in spiders. Based on a partial molecular phylogeny of the genus Stegodyphus, we address the hypothesis that social spiders in this genus are evolutionary transient. We estimate the age of the three social species, test whether they represent an ancestral or derived state and assess diversification relative to subsocial congeners. Intraspecific sequence divergence was high in all of the social species, lending no support for the idea that they are young, transient species. The age of the social lineages, constant lineage branching and the likelihood that social species are independently derived suggest that either the social species are ‘caught in sociality' or they have evolved into cryptic species.
Original languageEnglish
JournalRoyal Society of London. Proceedings. Biological Sciences
Volume274
Pages (from-to)231-237
ISSN0962-8452
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2007

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