Leticia Avilés

Full Professor

Research in my lab seeks to elucidate the forces responsible the association of lower level units into higher levels of organization and the consequences of such associations on the structure and dynamics of populations, communities, and, more recently, whole ecosystems.  Using empirical and theoretical approaches, our population and community level studies have used social spiders as a model system to address questions such as:

  1. the ecology and biogeography of social evolution;
  2. the short and long term consequences of inbreeding; 
  3. the evolution of life history traits and local population dynamics in metapopulation; and
  4. sociality and community assembly.

Following up on the patterns uncovered with our earlier work, more recently we have been investigating how broad environmental gradients shape the nature of organisms and their interactions.  In this context, we have been studying how insect size, spider web characteristics, level of sociality, predation or parasitism rates change along elevation and precipitation gradients in Ecuador.  


  • Animal Behaviour (Biol 310)
  • Darwinian Medicine (ISCI350)
  • Field Ecology (Biol 409)


For Research

Animal Behavior Society

NSERC Discovery Grants Accelerator Award

For Research

Fellow Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin

For Research

Young Investigator Award, American Society of Naturalists

For Research
Behavioral modification of a social spider by a wasp parasitoid
Ecological Entomology In Press
Fernandez-Fournier PG, Straus SG, Aviles L.
Caught in the web: spider web architecture affect prey specialization and spider prey stoichiometric relationships
Ecology and Evolution. 8: 6449–6462
Ludwig, L., Barbour, M., Guevara, J. P, Aviles, L., &, Gonzalez, A
Effects of host colony size and hygiene behaviors on social spider kleptoparasite loads along an elevation gradient
Functional Ecology. 10.1111/1365‐2435.13225
Straus SG , & Aviles, L
Environmental filtering and dispersal as drivers of metacommunity composition: Complex spider webs as habitat patches
Ecosphere. 9(2): e2101
Fernandez-Fournier PG, Aviles, L
Estimating consumable biomass from body length and order in insects and spiders
Ecological Entomology. 43: 69-75
Straus, S. & Aviles, L
Female biased sex ratios increase colony survival and reproductive output in the spider Anelosimus studious
The American Naturalist. 143: 155- 165
Lichenstein, JLL., Kamath, A., Bengston, SE., Aviles, L., & Pruitt, JN
Rain, predators, and vegetation lushness may structure web-building spider communities along precipitation gradients
Ecological Entomology. In press.
Robertson, M.G & Aviles, L.
Spinning in the rain: interactions between spider web morphology and microhabitat use
Biotropica Under Revision
Haberkern, AG., Fernandez-Fournier PG.,& Aviles, L.
The shortfall of sociality: how group living affects hunting performance of individual social spiders
Behavioral Ecology ary099, https://doi.org/10.1093/
Harwood GG, & Aviles, L
Trait overdispersion and the role of sociality in the assembly of social spider communities across the Americas
PNAS. 201721464
Fernandez-Fournier, P.G, Guevara, J.P, Hoffman, C. & L. Aviles