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Evolution of sociality in spiders leads to depleted genomic diversity at both population and species levels

  • V. Settepani
  • M.F. Schou
  • M. Greve
  • L. Grinsted
  • J. Bechsgaard
  • T. Bilde
Publishing year: 2017
Language: Other
Pages: 4197-4210
Publication/Series: Molecular Ecology
Volume: 26
Issue: 16
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell

Abstract english

Textcopyright 2017 John Wiley Sons Ltd.Across several animal taxa, the evolution of sociality involves a suite of characteristics, a "social syndrome," that includes cooperative breeding, reproductive skew, primary female-biased sex ratio, and the transition from outcrossing to inbreeding mating system, factors that are expected to reduce effective population size (Ne). This social syndrome may be favoured by short-term benefits but come with long-term costs, because the reduction in Ne amplifies loss of genetic diversity by genetic drift, ultimately restricting the potential of populations to respond to environmental change. To investigate the consequences of this social life form on genetic diversity, we used a comparative RAD-sequencing approach to estimate genomewide diversity in spider species that differ in level of sociality, reproductive skew and mating system. We analysed multiple populations of three independent sister-species pairs of social inbreeding and subsocial outcrossing Stegodyphus spiders, and a subsocial outgroup. Heterozygosity and within-population diversity were sixfold to 10-fold lower in social compared to subsocial species, and demographic modelling revealed a tenfold reduction in Ne of social populations. Species-wide genetic diversity depends on population divergence and the viability of genetic lineages. Population genomic patterns were consistent with high lineage turnover, which homogenizes the genetic structure that builds up between inbreeding populations, ultimately depleting genetic diversity at the species level. Indeed, species-wide genetic diversity of social species was 5-8 times lower than that of subsocial species. The repeated evolution of species with this social syndrome is associated with severe loss of genomewide diversity, likely to limit their evolutionary potential.


  • Ecology
  • Demographic modelling
  • evolutionary dead end
  • genetic diversity
  • inbreeding
  • RAD sequencing
  • Stegodyphus


  • ISSN: 0962-1083
Mads Schou
E-mail: mads [dot] schou [at] biol [dot] lu [dot] se

Postdoctoral fellow