Hunted hunters? Effect of group size on predation risk and growth in the Australian subsocial crab spider Diaea ergandros

Bianca Unglaub, Jasmin Ruch*, Marie E. Herberstein, Jutta M. Schneider

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

15 Citations (Scopus)


A reduced predation risk is considered to be a major adaptive advantage of sociality. While most studies are concerned with non-predatory prey species, group-living predators are likely to face similar threats from higher-order predators. We studied the relationship between group size and predation risk in the subsocial crab spider Diaea ergandros by testing predictions from theoretical models including attack abatement as well as the formation of protective retreats. In a field survey, we found predatory clubionid spiders in 35 % of the D. ergandros nests and as predicted, nest size did not correlate with predator presence. In a subsequent laboratory experiment, we observed survival probability, nest construction activity and feeding behaviour including weight development between groups of different sizes as well as in the absence or presence of a predator. Large groups had an advantage in terms of survival and growth compared to smaller groups or single individuals. They also built significantly larger nests than smaller groups, supporting the idea of protective retreat formation being an adaptive benefit to group living. Even though clubionids did attack D. ergandros, they did not significantly affect overall mortality of D. ergandros. The feeding experiment showed that spiders fed on a larger proportion of flies in the presence of a predator. However, these groups gained significantly less weight compared to the control groups, indicating that the potential predators not only act as predators but also as food competitors, constituting a twofold cost for D. ergandros.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)785-794
Number of pages10
JournalBehavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • sociality
  • spiders
  • group living
  • predation risk
  • intraguild predation
  • cooperation

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