Locomotor Activity Patterns in Three Spider Species Suggest Relaxed Selection on Endogenous Circadian Period and Novel Features of Chronotype

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We examined the circadian rhythms of locomotor activity in three spider species in the Family Theridiidae under light–dark cycles and constant darkness. Contrary to previous findings in other organisms, we found exceptionally high variability in endogenous circadian period both within and among species. Many individuals exhibited circadian periods much lower (19–22 h) or much higher (26–30 h) than the archetypal circadian period. These results suggest relaxed selection on circadian period as well as an ability to succeed in nature despite a lack of circadian resonance with the 24-h daily cycle. Although displaying similar entrainment waveforms under light–dark cycles, there were remarkable differences among the three species with respect to levels of apparent masking and dispersion of activity under constant dark conditions. These behavioral differences suggest an aspect of chronotype adapted to the particular ecologies of the different species.