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'Ballooning' Spiders Grounded By Infection

Date:
July 26, 2009
Source:
BioMed Central
Summary:
Money spiders infected with Rickettsia bacteria are less likely to 'balloon' -- that is, to use their silk as sails to catch gusts of wind and travel long distances. Researchers suggest that it may be in the bacteria's interests to ground the spiders and that this reduction in dispersal could reduce gene flow and impact on reproductive isolation within the meta-population.

This is a money spider "ballooning."
Credit: Goodacre et al., BMC Biology

Money spiders infected with Rickettsia bacteria are less likely to 'balloon' – that is, to use their silk as sails to catch gusts of wind and travel long distances. Researchers suggest that it may be in the bacteria's interests to ground the spiders and that this reduction in dispersal could reduce gene flow and impact on reproductive isolation within the meta-population.

While working at the University of East Anglia, Sara Goodacre led an international team of researchers who investigated the microbes' effect on the spiders' ballooning behavior. She said, "Because we found no reduction in fitness associated with Rickettsia infection, the reduced long-distance dispersal seems unlikely to be simply due to decreased body condition caused by illness. Rather, we believe that reducing long-distance dispersal could be an evolved adaptive modification by bacterial infections to promote their own transmission".

The researchers treated the spiders with antibiotics to reduce the bacterial infection and showed that this increased their ballooning frequency. They also observed that Rickettsia-infected spiders reared in the laboratory had reduced long-distance (but not short-distance) dispersal. This parasite-induced change in a non-reproductive trait has never been shown before and, according to Goodacre, "Clearly shows that the dynamics of ecosystem services such as a spider's pest-controlling function may be altered as a consequence of bacterial infection".


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by BioMed Central. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Sara L Goodacre, Oliver Y Martin, Dries Bonte, Linda Hutchings, Chris Woolley, Kamal Ibrahim, C.F. George Thomas and Godfrey M Hewitt. Microbial modification of host long-distance dispersal capacity. BMC Biology, (in press) [link]

Cite This Page:

BioMed Central. "'Ballooning' Spiders Grounded By Infection." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 July 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090618200929.htm>.
BioMed Central. (2009, July 26). 'Ballooning' Spiders Grounded By Infection. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 26, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090618200929.htm
BioMed Central. "'Ballooning' Spiders Grounded By Infection." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090618200929.htm (accessed July 26, 2014).

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