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Group effect on fertility, survival and silk production in the web spinner Tetranychus urticae (Acari: Tetranychidae) during colony foundation

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In many vertebrates and invertebrates, individuals reared in isolation show biological modifications compared with those reared in groups of two of more. The spider mite Tetranychus urticae is characterised by a communal organization and displays some forms of cooperative behaviour (aggregation and common web spinning). To evaluate the potential fitness cost or gain of group living, we investigated the effect of being in group on life history parameters (silk production, fecundity, death rate, feeding rate). In this respect, virgin single females and grouped females (two to six individuals) were compared every day for 5 days. Grouped mites produced significantly more web/mite per day (since the second day of experiment) and more eggs/mite per day (since the fourth day of experiment) than single mites. Moreover, single mites had a higher death rate than mites living in groups. However, no difference was found concerning feeding rate. We assume that mites could benefit from the web production of other individuals and invested resources in other activities such as egg production. We showed that these group effects already exist in small groups. In natural conditions with a higher group size, the impact of group living might be stronger for the dynamics of T. urticae populations and the colony foundation.

Affiliations: 1: Unité d'Écologie et de Biogéographie, Biodiversity Research Centre, Université Catholique de Louvain, 4-5 Place Croix-du-Sud, B-1348 Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium;, Email:; 2: Unité d'Écologie et de Biogéographie, Biodiversity Research Centre, Université Catholique de Louvain, 4-5 Place Croix-du-Sud, B-1348 Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium; 3: Laboratoire d'Écologie sociale, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Campus de la Plaine, Boulevard du Triomphe, B-1050 Bruxelles, Belgium


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