Limited male dispersal in a social spider with extreme inbreeding

Yael Lubin, Klaus Birkhofer, Reut Berger-Tal, Trine Bilde

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Cooperatively breeding animals commonly avoid incestuous mating through pre-mating dispersal. However, a few group-living organisms, including the social spiders, have low pre-mating dispersal, intra-colony mating, and inbreeding. This results in limited gene flow among colonies and sub-structured populations. The social spiders also exhibit female-biased sex ratios because survival benefits to large colonies favour high group productivity, which selects against 1 : 1 sex ratios. Although propagule dispersal of mated females may occasionally bring about limited gene flow, little is known about the role of male dispersal. We assessed the extent of male movement between colonies in natural populations both experimentally and by studying colony sex ratios over the mating season. We show that males frequently move to neighbouring colonies, whereas only 4% of incipient nests were visited by dispersing males. Neighbouring colonies are genetically similar and movement within colony clusters does not contribute to gene flow. Post-mating sex ratio bias was high early in the mating season due to protandry, and also in colonies at the end of the season, suggesting that males remain in the colony when mated females have dispersed. Thus, male dispersal is unlikely to facilitate gene flow between different matrilineages. This is consistent with models of non-Fisherian group-level selection for the maintenance of female biased sex ratios, which predict the elimination of male dispersal.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)227-234
Number of pages8
JournalBiological Journal of the Linnean Society
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2009


  • Breeding system
  • Gene flow
  • Matrilineages
  • Movement
  • Sex ratio

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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