Susan Riechert


1973 – Ph.D., University of Wisconsin

Research Interests

See Also: PhotosBiology in a Box


My work is at the interface between behavior, ecology and evolutionary biology and involves the extent to which populations are at adaptive equilibria with respect to their physical and biotic environments. These questions are pursued through genetic analyses of fitness-linked traits, through species optimum and game theoretic analyses and simulations, and through field manipulations and breeding experiments.  Current work on the desert spider, Agelenopsis aperta, involves a quantitative genetic study of the effect of competitive interactions among conspecifics on the joint evolution of aggressiveness and body size. Aggressiveness is a social trait that is both a characteristic of an individual and of the environment. The results of a breeding experiment presented in Riechert and Johns (2005) suggested that while such factors as metabolic rate and assimilation efficiency are heritable, their effects on an individual’s phenotype are overridden by behavioral aggressiveness which also is genetically determined.  We hope that the half sib breeding study near completion will provide further insight into social selection theory.

 In West Africa and most recently in the Southeast US, work is ongoing towards understanding the evolution of social behavior in an animal group that is generally highly territorial and even cannibalistic. Several of the publications listed below on the spider, Anelsoimus studiosus present our findings concerning the mechanisms and selection pressures underlying an observed latitudinal shift from from asocial to social behavior.

While the spider lab is currently not specifically involved in agroecosystem projects, I maintain a long term interest in the potential role of spiders as biocontrol agents, specifically in the extent to which generalist feeders can limit the growth of associated prey populations: assemblage effects on associated prey. I hope to revisit superfluous killing and other potential indirect effects of predators on their prey in the near future.


  • Riechert, S. E. and T. C. Jones. 2008.  Phenotypic variation in the behaviour of the spider, Anelosimus studiosus, facilitates shift from single female to multiple female nests in colder environments. Animal Behaviour.
  • Perkins, T. A., S. E. Riechert and T. C. Jones. 2007. Interactions between the social spider Anelosimus studiosus and foreign spiders that frequent its nests. J Arachnology 35:146-155.
  • Jones, T. C., S. E. Riechert, S. E. Dalrymple, and Patricia G. Parker 2007.  Fostering Model Explains Environmental Variation in Levels of Sociality in a Spider System. Animal Behaviour.  73:195-204.
  • Ayoub, N. A., S. E. Riechert and R. L. Small. 2005. The speciation history of the north American funnel-web spider Agelenopsis (Araneae: Agelenidae): Phylogenetic inferences at the population-species interface.  Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution.36:42-57.
  • Riechert, S. E. 2005 Patterns of inheritance of traits associated with predator foraging behavior. Pp. 55-76  In: Ecology of Predator-Prey Interactions (eds. P. Barbosa and I. Castellanos). Oxford University Press.
  • Becker, E., Riechert, S.E., Singer, F. 2005. Male Induction of Female Quiescence/Catalepsis during Courtship in the Spider, Agelenopsis aperta. Behaviour
  • Ayoub, N.A. and S. E. Riechert 2004. Molecular evidence for Pleistocene glacial cycles driving diversification of North American desert spider Agelenopsis aperta. Molecular Ecology 13: 3453-3465.
  • Riechert, S. E. and P. Johns 2003. Do female spiders select heavier males for the genes for behavioral aggressiveness they offer their offspring? Evolution 57:1367-1373.