Aarhus University Seal / Aarhus Universitets segl

Welcome to Spiderlab Aarhus University

  • Evolution of Cooperation – Mating System Evolution – Genetic and non-genetic processes of adaptation

Our research group aims to investigate evolutionary ecology and genetics of group living, cooperation and mating systems using spiders as study systems. Additionally, we are interested in understanding the genomic consequences of sociality and inbreeding mating systems, and genetic and non-genetic processes involved in adaptation to different environments.

Our Research:

Our research focuses on the spider genus Stegodyphus (family Eresidae) that contains both social and subsocial (temporarily social) species, which makes it ideal for comparative studies. The social spiders are unique among group living animals, as the transition to permanent sociality is associated with regular inbreeding and highly female-biased sex ratios. Additionally, social spiders cooperate in all colony tasks and show allomaternal brood care including self-sacrifice. We perform field work in South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, India and Israel.
Our research aims to understand 1) the ecology and evolution of sociality, 2) reproductive division of labour and conflict resolution, and 3) population genomic consequences of inbreeding 4) non-genetic processes involved in adaptation.

Collaboration Projects:

Additionally, we study the evolution of polyandrous mating systems and the evolution of alternative male mating strategies in the nursery web spider Pisaura mirabilis. This work is done in collaboration with Ass. Prof. Cristina Tuni, University of Munich, and field work in Germany, Italy, UK and Denmark.

  1. Ecological genomics of inbreeding: comparative studies of inbreeding mating systems in non-model animal populations (funded by the European Research Council)
  2. Epigenomics of phenotypic variation (funded by the Danish Council for Independent research)
  3. Discovery and characterization of novel antimicrobials (funded by Novo Nordisk Foundation’s Interdisciplinary Synergy Programme)
  4. Evolution of social behaviour: social structure and task differentiation
  5. The role of sexual selection on alternative male mating strategies (funded by the Danish Council for Independent research)
Spiderlab on collection trip to Mols bjerg
Spiderlab on collection trip to Mols bjerg

Recent Publications

Schendel, V., Junghanns, A., Bilde, T. & Uhl, G. 2018. Comparative female genital morphology in Stegodyphus spiders (Araneae: Eresidae). Journal of Comparative Zoology, 273, 240–249

Ghislandi, P.G., Pekár, S., Matzke, M., Schulte-Doinghaus, S., Bilde, T., Tuni, C. 2018. Resource availability, mating opportunity, and sexual selection intensity influence the expression of male alternative reproductive tactics. Journal of Evolutionary Biology in press

Vanthournout, B.; Busck, M.M.; Bechsgaard, J.; Hendrickx, F.; Schramm, A.; Bilde, T. 2018. Male spiders control offspring sex ratio through greater production of female-determining sperm. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 285: 20172887

Tuni, C., Weber, S., Bilde, T*., Uhl, G. 2017. Male spiders reduce pre- and post-mating sexual traits in response to sperm competition risk. Behavioural Ecology 28, 1030–1036. 

Thorsen, C.K., Schild, S-L.,A., Rangstrup-Christensen, L., Bilde, T., Pedersen, L.J. 2017. The effect of farrowing duration on maternal behavior of hyperprolific sows in organic outdoor production. Livestock Science

Junghanns, A., Holm, C., Schou, M.S., Sørensen, A.B., Uhl, G., Bilde, T. 2017. Cooperative breeding and allomaternal care in a social spider. Animal Behaviour, 132:101-107. 

Settepani V., Schou M.F., Greve M., Grinsted L., Bechsgaard J., Bilde T. 2017. Evolution of sociality in spiders leads to depleted genomic diversity at both population and species level. Molecular Ecology 26 (16): 4197-4210.

Schou M.F., Loeschcke V., Bechsgaard J., Schlötterer C., Kristensen T. 2017. Unexpected high genetic diversity in small populations suggests maintenance by associative overdominance. Molecular Ecology. 
Walter A., Bechsgaard J. Scavenius C., Sanggaard K. Dyrlund T.F., Enghild J.J., Bilde T. 2017. Characterisation of protein families in spider digestive fluids and their role in extra-oral digestion. BMC Genomics. 
Schwager E., … Bechsgaard J., …, McGregor A. 2017. The house spider genome reveals an ancient whole-genome duplication during arachnid evolution. BMC Biology. 
Bechsgaard J., Jørgensen T.H., Schierup M.H. 2017. Evidence for adaptive introgression of disease resistance genes among closely related Arabidopsis species. G3.

Ghislandi, P. G., Beyer, M., Velado, P., Tuni, C. 2017. Silk wrapping of nuptial gifts aids cheating behaviour in male spiders. Behavioral Ecology (2017), 00(00), 1–6

​Albo, M. j., Bidegaray-Batista, L., Bechsgaard, J., Cruz da Silva, E. L., Bilde, T., Perez-Miles, F. 2017. Molecular phylogenetic analyses show that Trechaleidae and Lycosidae are sister groups. Arachnology 17 (4), 169-176

Albo M.J., N. Macías-Hernández, T Bilde & S. Toft. 2017. Mutual benefit from male exploitation of female foraging motivation may account for the early evolution of gifts in spiders. Animal Behaviour 129: 9-14

Collaborators ​

​​Prof. Tom Tregenza - Department of Bioscience, University of Exeter

Prof. Gabriele Uhl - Zoological Institute and Museum of General and Systematic Zoology - University of Greifswald (Germany)

Prof. Jutta Schneider - Faculty of Mathematics, Computer Science and Natural Sciences, Department of Biology - University of Hamburg (Germany)

Prof. Yael Lubin - Desert Ecology Department - Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Beersheba (Israel)

Prof. Mikkel Schierup - Bioinformatic Research Centre - Aarhus University (Denmark)

Prof. Andreas Schramm - Section for Microbiology - Aarhus University (Denmark)

Prof. Thomas Vosegaard - Center for Insoluble Protein Structure (inSPIN), Interdisciplinary Nanoscience Center (iNANO) and Department of Chemistry - Aarhus University (Denmark) 

Prof. Michael Lalk - Department of Cellular Biochemistry and Metabolomics - Ernst-Moritz-Arndt-University Greifswald (Germany)

Prof. Judith Mank - Department of Genetics, Evolution and Environment - University College London (UK)

Dr. Tharina Bird - Natural History Museum of Windhoek (Namibia) and BIUST: Botswana International University of Science and Technology (Botswana)

Dr. Casper Nyamukondiwa - Department of Biological Science and Biotechnology - BIUST: Botswana International University of Science and Technology (Botswana)

Dr. Michelle Greve - Department of Plant Science - University of Pretoria (South Africa)

Dr. Lena Grinsted - School of Biological Science - Royal Holloway University of London (UK)

Head of Lab:

Trine Bilde

Professor Institut for Biologi - Genetik, økologi og evolution