Extended maternal care is considered a prerequisite for the evolution of permanent family grouping and eusociality in invertebrates. In spiders, the essential evolutionary transitions to permanent sociality along this 'subsocial route' include the extension of care beyond hatching, the persistence of offspring groups to maturation and the elimination of premating dispersal. Subsocial Australian crab spiders (Thomisidae) present a suitable system to identify the selective agents prolonging group cohesion. Particularly, the recent discovery of independently evolved subsociality in the thomisid Xysticus bimaculatus provides new potential for comparative studies to expand the limited understanding of group cohesion beyond the offspring's potential independence and despite socially exploitative behaviour. Providing fundamental knowledge, the present study investigated maternal care and offspring interactions in X. bimaculatus for the first time. Nest dissections revealed that mothers produce exceptionally small clutches, potentially reflecting a limit in the number of juveniles they can successfully care for. A laboratory experiment demonstrated crucial benefits for offspring in receiving maternal care beyond nutritional independence, mediated by extensive maternal food provisioning. However, prey-sharing also occurred between juveniles irrespective of maternal presence, which marks this species' predisposition for exploitative feeding behaviour. I therefore suggest X. bimaculatus as a suitable model for investigating the regulation of communal feeding in group-living spiders.
|Number of pages||9|
|Journal||Australian Journal of Zoology|
|Publication status||Published - 2016|