In the theridiid spider, Anelosimus studiosus, most juveniles remain in their natal web, forming temporary colonies in which individuals cooperate in web maintenance and prey capture until they disperse at maturity. There is natural variation in age at dispersal, and subadult spiders removed from their natal webs build webs and continue to develop. To explore the costs and benefits of delayed dispersal, we compared the rate of prey capture and developmental rate for individuals in colonies and those isolated at the fourth instar. Rate of prey capture by colonies increased with colony size and age; this result was driven primarily by the enhanced capture of large prey by larger and older colonies. The presence of juveniles increased the overall productivity of webs, an effect which remained after the juveniles were removed from the web. Despite the overall increase in prey capture, per-individual prey capture decreased with colony size. The variance in prey capture success decreased significantly with colony size, but not with colony age. Spiders in colonies captured more prey per juvenile than singletons experimentally dispersed at the fourth instar; however, this did not result in increased development rate of colonial juveniles over isolated juveniles. These data suggest that juvenile A. studiosus benefit from delayed dispersal by acquiring more resources and acquiring them more steadily. The productivity of webs of females whose juveniles were removed at the fourth instar remained higher than those of similarly aged females who never produced juveniles. This suggests that delayed dispersal of juveniles enhances the resources which the female could allocate to her next egg mass.
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