Overall, spiders became shyer after they were disturbed. This result was likely a side effect of the spiders' natural environment, Modlmeier said. Predatory ants that overrun S. dumicola's webs have put the species under threat, and laying low after an attack may increase the spiders' chances of survival.
However, a difference emerged in spiders that spent the entire experiment with the same buddies compared to those that had to integrate with strangers. The spiders that stayed in their colonies became more consistent in their behavior over time, and more divergent from one another. In other words, spiders settled into "bold" or "shy" personalities, and differed very little in how they responded to fake attacks.
In contrast, the spiders that had to cope with new colony-mates were less individualistic and less consistent in their behavior. This is likely because these spiders had failed to find their "niches" in the changing social groups, Modlmeier said.
"It's a huge part of what makes social groups successful and effective," he said. "If you have a very efficient group that works together well, where everyone knows their place and has a task to work on, that group will be much more successful."