The adaptive significance of kin recognition in subsocial Stegodyphus lineatus spiders
I am investigating the adaptive significance of kin recognition in subsocial Stegodyphus lineatus spiders (Erisidae). In this species juveniles stay in groups for a couple of instars until they disperse. Behavioural investigations revealed low aggression rates and equally pronounced cooperation between kin and non-kin individuals, however true kin recognition has been demonstrated to be present in this S. lineatus. So far, it is unknown why this ability is maintained in these spiders. My project aims to reveal that the key of understanding its adaptive significance resides in a kin-specific investment in extra oral digestion (EOD) or in molecular competition when these spiders feed communally.
To address my research aims I am using proteomic analyses, behavioural observations and genomic comparisons. I hypothesised that the observed differences in feeding efficiency between kin- and non-kin-groups derive from either predefined amounts of released enzymes depending on the relatedness of co-foragers or compatibility problems of enzymes of un-related individuals. Enzyme compositions and quantities are characterized in the digestive secretions using standard biochemical techniques, coupled with proteome analysis and mass spectrometry. Sequencing genes and transcriptomes from kin and non-kin individuals shall further show whether detected differences in enzyme-compositions of digestive fluids are based on different alleles or the result of post-translational modifications of those proteins.
Previous research focus:
Maintenance and evolution of web decoration signals in orb web spiders
Water metabolism of orb web spiders
Ballooning behaviour of Argiope bruennichi