Nests of social spiders in their natural habitat are clustered and colony clusters may be short-lived. Rapid growth and subsequent extinction of colonies and colony clusters are predicted for social spider populations; however, little quantitative data exist on the longevity of colonies. Furthermore, processes that influence the growth and decline of social spider populations are poorly understood. In this study we followed a population of over 550 nests of S. mimosarum from September 1994 to December 1999 and analysed the changes in relation to abiotic (temperature and rainfall) and biotic (parasitism) factors. We observed two years of apparent population stability (1994-1995), during which nest numbers remained high and constant. This was followed in 1996 by a c. 12% decrease in the numbers of active nests. At the end of 1996 there was a mass dispersal event which was followed in 1997 by a steady decline of the population with no further recovery. Thus, the decline was preceded by dispersal and nest failure, indicating that conditions in the population were unfavourable. The population-wide synchrony of these events reflects the seasonally synchronized development in S. mimosarum. However, extrinsic factors related to climate did not explain the extreme events of dispersal and population decline. The potential importance of parasitism, on the one hand, and unknown intrinsic factors on the other, should be considered as alternative explanations that remain to be tested.
- Environmental conditions
- Population dynamics
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics