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Spiders: Social Creatures

According to an article in the New York Times by Natalie Angier, spiders may be social creatures. Spiders are mostly known for being solitary creatures. Apparently 25 arachnid species have been identified that have taken on a social life style.

These unusual species may offer us an insight into personalities. There is research being conducted at the University of Pittsburgh by Biologist Dr. Jonathan N. Pruitt into animal personality. The research also includes monkeys, minks, bighorn sheep, dumpling squid, zebra finches and spotted hyenas.

The big questions are why and where differences come from with regard to shyness, boldness, aggressiveness, and neophobia (fear of the new). So far they have found that spiders exposed to the same group day after day, build stronger personalities. Where as spiders that were shifted from one group to another. These spiders with stronger personalities had more differing personalities than any other.

According to the article, Dr. Pruitt said “The longer the spiders were with the same individuals, the stronger their personalities became, and the more different they became from each other.” Development of personalities is viewed as part of the ability to carve out a specialty in a competitive world. The personalities allowed for spiders to live communally rather than needing to fight all the time.


The study was conducted on a species called Stegodyphus mimosarum. These spiders live in colonies of 20 to 300 individuals. The webs of these spiders can be as big as automobiles. They are big enough to cover trees and bushes. They are found in the Kalahari in Southern Africa. The labor can thus be divided into web repair, attacking prey or tending to the young. The personalities of the spiders is what dictates the jobs they carry out.

This research is unique since most spiders are seen as loners. The tend to hunt and live on their own. This is usually because of their lack of ability in catching enough food for more than one individual.

There are so many types of spiders all around us. It is often said that you are never more than 3 feet from a spider. The following link has some information about common spiders that you may find around you right now.

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