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Conflict and Cooperation in the Group Feeding of the Social Spider Stegodyphus Mimosarum

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1. Stegodyphus mimosarum, a social spider, lives in colonies which may contain hundreds of individuals. Feeding behaviour was examined with respect to feeding group size and prey size. 2. Prey were less likely to escape and were subdued more quickly when attacked by more than one spider. 3. During capture small prey were frequently bitten directly on the body whereas large prey were almost always bitten on an appendage. 4. Pulling struggles for subdued prey occurred. They lasted longest over medium sized prey. Small prey were easier to transport to the nest than medium prey and large prey were pulled by more spiders from a single retreat. 5. Spiders which had participated in a capture initially bit preferentially on the prey's head or thorax but others which joined later to feed bit at random. 6. Feeding became less efficient as group size increased and an experiment suggests that individuals injected less poison and digestive enzymes when feeding in groups.

Affiliations: 1: (Max-Planck-Institut f. Verhaltensphysiologie, D-8131 Seewiesen, F.R.G.

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