Injected serotonin decreases foraging aggression in black widow spiders (Latrodectus hesperus), but dopamine has no effect

Hannes A. Schraft, Chasity Bilbrey, Matt Olenski, Nicholas DiRienzo, Pierre Olivier Montiglio, Anna Dornhaus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


A fundamental goal of animal behavior research is to discover the proximate mechanisms driving individual behavioral differences. Biogenic amines are known to mediate various aspects of behavior across many species, including aggression, one of the most commonly measured behavioral traits in animals. Arthropods provide an excellent system to manipulate biogenic amines and quantify subsequent behavioral changes. Here, we investigated the role of dopamine (DA) and serotonin (5-HT) on foraging aggression in western black widow spiders (Latrodectus hesperus), as measured by the number of attacks on a simulated prey animal in the web. We injected spiders with DA or 5-HT and then quantified subsequent changes in behavior over 48 h. Based on previous work on insects and spiders, we hypothesized that increasing DA levels would increase aggression, while increasing 5-HT would decrease aggression. We found that injection of 5-HT did decrease black widow foraging aggression, but DA had no effect. This could indicate that the relationship between DA and aggression is complex, or that DA may not play as important a role in driving aggressive behavior as previously thought, at least in black widow spiders. Aggressive behavior is likely also influenced by other factors, such as inter-individual differences in genetics, metabolic rates, environment, and other neurohormonal controls.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number104802
JournalBehavioural Processes
StatePublished - Jan 2023


  • Aggression
  • Animal personality
  • Biogenic amines
  • Hormones
  • Neurohormones

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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