Monday 06 June 2016 - 19.00
British Council

Café Scientifique: 
South American Social Spiders: Darwin and Game Theory

The social spider Parawixia bistriata is fascinating. During the day, hundreds of these spiders doze quietly together in a bivouac, a soccer ball sized huddle of spiders in a bush or tree.  This bivouac sits in the centre of a network of thick silk lines which radiate out to adjacent trees and bushes.  Things change dramatically at sunset; the spiders move out along the silk lines and build many adjacent orb webs, normally one per spider. Before daybreak, each spider consumes its own web and returns to the safety of the bivouac. Darwin almost certainly observed this species while travelling overland in Argentina in October 1832, describing them in his Voyage of the Beagle as "many large black spiders with ruby coloured marks on their backs having gregarious habits", he described their adjacent individual webs attached to common lines and went on to remark that "this gregarious habit in so typical a genus of eperia among insects which are so bloodthirsty and solitary that even the two sexes attack each other is a very singular fact."

Almost two centuries later we now understand the spiders' behavioural strategy that keep the peace and prevent these dangerous, well-armed carnivores from getting into costly fights with their neighbours. Professor Bacon would describe the application of game theory modelling to these spider colonies to explain how the peace is kept.

Speaker:  Prof Jonathan Bacon, Professor of Neuroscience (Evolution, Behaviour and Environment) and Acting Head of School (School of Life Sciences), University of Sussex

Join the conversation at the British Council, Room 307, 3 Supreme Court Road, Admiralty, Hong Kong on Monday 6 June 2016 at 19.00 – 20.00 (doors open at 18.30)

FREE ADMISSION | Registration is required

This event will be conducted in English.

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