Producers and scroungers: feeding-type composition changes with group size in a socially foraging spider

Marlis Dumke*, Marie E. Herberstein, Jutta M. Schneider

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


In groups of socially foraging animals, feeding behaviour may change with group size in response to varying cost-benefit trade-offs. Numerous studies have described group-size effects on group-average feeding behaviour, particularly emphasizing an increase in scrounging incidence for larger groups, where individuals (scroungers) feed from the food sources others (producers) discovered. However, individual variation in feeding behaviour remains unconsidered in the vast majority of these studies even though theoretical models predict individuals to specialize in feeding tactic and anticipate higher scrounger-type frequencies in larger groups. We combined grouplevel and individual-level analyses of group-size effects on social foraging in the subsocial spider Australomisidia ergandros. Lending novel experimental support to model predictions, we found that individuals specialize in feeding tactic and that higher scrounging and lower producing incidence in larger groups were mediated through shifts in the ratio of feeding types. Further, feeding-type specializationwas not explained by innate individual differences in hunting ability as all feeding types were equally efficient in prey capture when foraging alone. Context adaptivity of feeding behaviour might allow this subsocial species to succeed under varying socioecological conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20160114
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1828
Publication statusPublished - 13 Apr 2016


  • behavioural type
  • feeding tactics
  • group size
  • scrounging
  • social foraging


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