Date of Award

12-2011

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Biology

First Advisor

Robert P. Gendron, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Sandra J. Newell, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Holly J. Travis, Ph.D.

Abstract

The theory of kin selection, formalized by W.D. Hamilton in 1963, provides an explanation for the occurrence of altruistic behaviors within a population and has since been a subject of intense study and investigation. Using kin recognition, the differential treatment of conspecifics with regard to relatedness, scientists have begun probing populations for the presence of kin selection. In this study, I investigated kin recognition in Parasteatoda tepidariorum (C.L. Koch). By pairing related and non-related individuals, and measuring the frequency of cannibalism between treatments, I have found that this population does not exhibit behaviors associated with kin recognition; cannibalism is equally frequent between siblings and non-siblings. While kin recognition does not appear to be present, an alternative avoidance strategy is; P. tepidariorum spiderlings appear to delay aggression and disperse before predatory instincts initiate. In this way, siblings avoid cannibalizing each other by removing themselves from the natal web.

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