Thermal conditions during juvenile development affect adult dispersal in a spider

Dries Bonte, Justin M. J. Travis, Nele De Clercq, Ingrid Zwertvaegher, Luc Lens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

88 Citations (Scopus)


Understanding the causes and consequences of dispersal is a prerequisite for the effective management of natural populations. Rather than treating dispersal as a fixed trait, it should be considered a plastic process that responds to both genetic and environmental conditions. Here, we consider how the ambient temperature experienced by juvenile Erigone atra, a spider inhabiting crop habitat, influences adult dispersal. This species exhibits 2 distinct forms of dispersal, ballooning (long distance) and rappelling (short distance). Using a half-sib design we raised individuals under 4 different temperature regimes and quantified the spiders' propensity to balloon and to rappel. Additionally, as an indicator of investment in settlement, we determined the size of the webs build by the spiders following dispersal. The optimal temperature regimes for reproduction and overall dispersal investment were 20 degrees C and 25 degrees C. Propensity to perform short-distance movements was lowest at 15 degrees C, whereas for long-distance dispersal it was lowest at 30 degrees C. Plasticity in dispersal was in the direction predicted on the basis of the risks associated with seasonal changes in habitat availability; long-distance ballooning occurred more frequently under cooler, spring-like conditions and short-distance rappelling under warmer, summer-like conditions. Based on these findings, we conclude that thermal conditions during development provide juvenile spiders with information about the environmental conditions they are likely to encounter as adults and that this information influences the spider's dispersal strategy. Climate change may result in suboptimal adult dispersal behavior, with potentially deleterious population level consequences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17000-17005
Number of pages6
Issue number44
Publication statusPublished - 4 Nov 2008


  • behavior
  • body condition
  • plasticity
  • reaction norm
  • silk
  • linyphiid spiders
  • aerial dispersal
  • wolf spider
  • fragmented landscapes
  • crepis-sancta
  • life-history
  • erigone-atra
  • temperature
  • evolution


Dive into the research topics of 'Thermal conditions during juvenile development affect adult dispersal in a spider'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this