In groups of socially foraging animals, feeding behaviour may change with group size in response to varying cost–benefit trade-offs. Numerous studies have described group-size effects on group-average feeding behaviour, particularly emphasizing an increase in scrounging incidence for larger groups, where individuals (scroungers) feed from the food sources others (producers) discovered. However, individual variation in feeding behaviour remains unconsidered in the vast majority of these studies even though theoretical models predict individuals to specialize in feeding tactic and anticipate higher scrounger-type frequencies in larger groups. We combined group-level and individual-level analyses of group-size effects on social foraging in the subsocial spider Australomisidia ergandros. Lending novel experimental support to model predictions, we found that individuals specialize in feeding tactic and that higher scrounging and lower producing incidence in larger groups were mediated through shifts in the ratio of feeding types. Further, feeding-type specialization was not explained by innate individual differences in hunting ability as all feeding types were equally efficient in prey capture when foraging alone. Context adaptivity of feeding behaviour might allow this subsocial species to succeed under varying socioecological conditions.
- Received January 18, 2016.
- Accepted March 17, 2016.
- © 2016 The Author(s)
Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.