Dr. Pruitt received his Ph.D. in 2010 with Susan Riechert at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, performed his postdoctoral studies with Andy Sih and Jay Stachowicz at the University of California, Davis, and joined the department in 2011.
I am interested in the causes and consequences of intraspecific trait variation. In general, evolution by natural selection is characterized as an optimizing agent, which tends to eliminate all but the most “fit” of trait variants. However, even a cursory glance of any trait type (e.g., morphology, behavior) will reveal a tremendous diversity in the kinds of strategies employed by organisms, even within a single population. I am interested in how this variation is maintained, and how it influences interspecific interactions. I use a suite of invertebrates, particularly social spiders, as models for my investigations.
How does behavioral variation influence individual- and group-performance?
In virtually all animal societies, group members differ along any number of trait axes. I am interested in how within-group trait variation impacts group performance. In social spiders of genus Anelosimus (Figure 1), group members exhibit variation in both their behavioral tendencies and body size, and there is growing evidence to suggest these differences shape division of labor and colony demographics. For instance, aggressive females are more likely to attack and subdue prey for their colony, while docile females tend to remain in the central portion of the colony and rear broods. In ongoing work, I am testing how the mix of types within colonies influences their survival and reproductive success in different habitats.
How do behavioral variants influence species interactions?
Although ecological studies commonly emphasize the importance of species’ functional roles (e.g., guilds), few studies consider the effects of functional diversity occurring at the level of the individual. I am interested in how the traits of individuals shape their interactions with heterospecifics. For example, whether a given heterospecific is a predator, competitor, or prey likely depends on the focal individual's body size. Or alternatively, whether two species improve or impede each other's performance might depend on whether individuals behave aggressively. In the temperate social spider Anelosimus studiosus, the mixture of behavioral tendencies within colonies changes many species interactions from parasitisms to mutualisms, and can even affect the nature of indirect species interactions (i.e., those not includng A. studiosus itself). Such trait-dependent interactions are of general interest because they create non-intuitive eco-evolutionary dynamics between population and community ecology.
DiRienzo N, Pruitt JN, Hedrick AV (in press) Combined behavioral tendencies of predator and prey mediate the outcome of their interaction. Animal Behaviour.
Pruitt JN (in press) A real-time eco-evolutionary dead-end strategy is mediated by the traits of lineage progenitors and interactions with colony invaders. Ecology Letters.
Jandt JM, Bengston S, Pinter-Wollman N, Pruitt JN, Raine NE, Dornhaus A, Sih A (in press) Behavioral syndromes and social insects: personality at multiple levels. Biological Reviews.
Sweeney K, Gadd RDH, Hess ZL, McDermott D, MacDonald L, Cotter P, Armagost F, Chen JZ, Berning AW, DiRienzo N, Pruitt JN (in press) Testing the effects of rearing environment, selection, and developmental stage on the emergence of a behavioral syndrome. Ethology.
Demes KW, Pruitt JN, Harley CDG, Carrington E (in press) Survival of the weakest: increased frond mechanical strength in a wave-swept kelp inhibits self-pruning and increases whole-plant mortality. Functional Ecology.
DiRienzo N, Pruitt JN, Hedrick AV (2012) Juvenile exposure to acoustic sexual signals from conspecifics alters developmental trajectory and adult personality. Animal Behaviour 84:861-868.
Berning AW, Gadd RDH, Sweeney K, MacDonald L, Eng RYY, Hess ZL, Pruitt JN (2012) Sexual cannibalism is associated with female behavioral type, hunger state, and increased hatching success. Animal Behaviour 84:715-721.
Pruitt JN (2012) Behavioral traits of colony founders affect the life history of their colony. Ecology Letters 15:1026-1032.
Pruitt JN, Oufiero CE, Avilés L, Riechert SE (2012) Iterative evolution of increased behavioral variation characterizes the transition to sociality in spiders and proves advantageous. The American Naturalist 180:496-510.
Pruitt JN, Riechert SE (2012) The ecological consequences of temperament in spiders. Current Zoology 58:589-596.
Sih A, Cote J, Evans M, Fogarty S, Pruitt JN (2012) Ecological implications of behavioral syndromes. Ecology Letters 15:278-289.
Pruitt JN, Cote J, Ferrari MCO (2012) Behavioural trait variants in a habitat-forming species dictate the nature of its interactions with and among heterospecifics. Functional Ecology 26:29-36.
Pruitt JN, Stachowicz JJ, Sih A (2012) Behavioral types of both predator and prey jointly determine prey survival: potential implications for the maintenance of within species behavioral variation. The American Naturalist 179:217-227.
Pruitt JN, Burghardt GM, Riechert SE (2012) Non-conceptive sexual behavior in spiders: a form of play associated with body condition, personality type, and male intrasexual selection. Ethology 118:33-40.
Pruitt JN, Iturralde G, Avilés L, Riechert SE (2011) Amazonian social spiders share similar within-colony behavioral variation and behavioral syndromes. Animal Behaviour 82:1449-1455.
Pruitt JN, Ferrari MCO (2011) Intraspecific trait variants determine the nature of interspecific interactions in habitat forming species. Ecology 92:1902-1908.
Pruitt JN, Riechert SE, Harris D (2011) Reproductive consequences of male body mass and aggressiveness depend on females’ behavioral types. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 65:1957-1966.
Pruitt JN, DiRienzo N, kralj-Fišer S, Johnson JC, Sih A (2011) Individual- and condition-dependent effects on habitat choice and choosiness. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 65:1987-1995.
Pruitt JN, Riechert SE (2011) Nonconceptive sexual experience diminishes individuals’ latency to mate and increases maternal investment. Animal Behaviour 81:789-794.
Pruitt JN, Riechert SE (2011) Within-group behavioral variation promoted biased task performance and the emergence of a defensive caste in a social spider. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 65:1055–1060.
Pruitt JN, Riechert SE (2011) How within-group behavioural variation and task efficiency enhance fitness in a social group. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B 278:1209-1215.
Pruitt JN, Demes KW, Dittrich-Reed D (2011) Temperature mediates correlated shifts in individual aggressiveness, activity-level, and social behavior. Ethology 117: 318-325.
Jones TC, Pruitt JN, Riechert SE (2010) Reproductive success in a socially polymorphic spider: social individuals experience depressed reproductive success in isolation. Ecological Entomology 35:684-690.
Pruitt JN, Krauel JJ (2010) The adaptive value of gluttony: predators mediate the fitness trade-offs of gluttonous behavior. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 23:2104-2111.
Pruitt JN, Riechert SE, Iturralde G, Vega M, Fitzpatrick BM, Avilés L (2010) Population differences in behaviour are explained by shared within-population trait correlations. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 23:748-756.
Pruitt JN, Troupe JE* (2010) The effect of reproductive status and situation on locomotor performance and anti-predator strategies in a funnel-web spider. Journal of Zoology 281:39-45.
Pruitt JN (2010) Differential selection on sprint speed and ad libitum feeding behaviour in active versus sit-and-wait foraging spiders. Functional Ecology 24:392-399.
Pruitt JN, Husak JF (2010) Context-dependent running speed in funnel-web spiders from divergent populations. Functional Ecology 24:165-171.
Robbins TR, Pruitt JN, Straub LE*, McCoy ED, Mushinsky HR. (2010) Transgressive behavioural traits of Sceloporus hybrids confer fitness through advantage in territorial defence. Journal of Animal Ecology 79:137-147.
Pruitt JN, Riechert SE (2009) Frequency dependent success of cheaters during foraging bouts might limit their spread within colonies of a socially polymorphic spider. Evolution 63: 2966-2973.
Pruitt JN, Taylor J*, Troupe SE* (2009) Foraging benefits and limited niche overlap promote a mixed species association between two solitary species of spider. Behaviour 149:1153- 1170.
Pruitt JN, Riechert SE (2009) Sex matters: sexually dimorphic fitness consequences of a behavioral syndrome. Animal Behaviour 78: 175-181.
Pruitt JN, Riechert SE (2009) Male mating preference is associated with risk of pre-copulatory cannibalism in a socially polymorphic spider. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 63:1573-1580.
Pruitt JN, Riechert SE, Jones TC (2008) Behavioral syndromes and their fitness consequences in a socially polymorphic spider, Anelosimus studiosus. Animal Behaviour 76: 871-879.
2013 Outstanding Young Investigator Award, Animal Behavior Society