Cuticular antifungals in spiders

density- and condition dependence

Daniel González-Tokman, Jasmin Ruch, Tamara Pulpitel, Fleur Ponton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

5 Citations (Scopus)
8 Downloads (Pure)


Animals living in groups face a high risk of disease contagion. In many arthropod species, cuticular antimicrobials constitute the first protective barrier that prevents infections. Here we report that group-living spiders produce cuticular chemicals which inhibit fungal growth. Given that cuticular antifungals may be costly to produce, we explored whether they can be modulated according to the risk of contagion (i.e. under high densities). For this purpose, we quantified cuticular antifungal activity in the subsocial crab spider Diaea ergandros in both natural nests and experimentally manipulated nests of varying density. We quantified the body-condition of spiders to test whether antifungal activity is condition dependent, as well as the effect of spider density on body-condition. We predicted cuticular antifungal activity to increase and body-condition to decrease with high spider densities, and that antifungal activity would be inversely related to body-condition. Contrary to our predictions, antifungal activity was neither density-nor condition-dependent. However, body-condition decreased with density in natural nests, but increased in experimental nests. We suggest that pathogen pressure is so important in nature that it maintains high levels of cuticular antifungal activity in spiders, impacting negatively on individual energetic condition. Future studies should identify the chemical structure of the isolated antifungal compounds in order to understand the physiological basis of a trade-off between disease prevention and energetic condition caused by group living, and its consequences in the evolution of sociality in spiders.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere91785
Pages (from-to)1-6
Number of pages6
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 17 Mar 2014

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Copyright the Author(s) 2014. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.

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