Associate Professor

Contact Information:

Department of Biological Sciences
National University of Singapore
14 Science Drive 4
Singapore 117543

6516 4372
6779 2486

Academic Qualifications

PhD Cant, MSc Central China Agric. Univ., BSc Hubei

Research Areas

Behavioural ecology; animal communication; animal personality; biogeography; biomaterial; spiders

Research Interests

General research interests of our lab lie in the fields of ecology, behaviour and evolution of animals, mostly in terrestrial arthropods, particularly spiders. Specifically we are interested in how animals that have small brain with few neurons solve the everyday problems that they face within their respective environments. Our research focuses on the area of behavioural ecology, and includes work on animal communication, including social and sexual behaviour; animal personality, focusing on genetic basis and fitness consequences of individual differences in behaviour; predator-prey interactions, especially in specialized prey-specific prey-catching and anti-predator behaviour. We also include our work on linking spider silk proteins and spider web-spinning behaviour to animal foraging behaviour and ecology, and biomaterials. Recently, we are exploring how geological and climatic processes have driven species diversification of spiders. The lab works mainly with spiders, and work both in the field and the laboratory.

Current Projects

  1. Colouration in sexual selection, crypsis, mimicry, aposematism, and masquerade.
  2. The diversity weapons and their evolution of ant-like jumping spiders.
  3. Molecular mechanisms and fitness consequences of personality.
  4. Evolution of sociality in spiders 5. Biogeography of spiders.


Selected Publications

  1. Zeng, H., Wee, S. S.E., Painting, C.J., Zhang, S.C. & Li, D. 2019. Equivalent effect of UV coloration and vibratory signal on mating success in a jumping spider. Behavioral Ecology 30: 313-321.

  2. Wu, S., Tan, K.J., Govindarajan, L.N., Stewart, J.C., Gu, L., Ho, J.W.H., Katarya, M., Wong, B.H., Tan, E.K., Li, D., Claridge-Chang, A., Libedinsky, C., Cheng L. & Aw, S.S. 2019. Full automated leg tracking of Drosophila neurodegeneration models reveals distinct conserved movement signatures. PLOS Biology 17(6): e3000346.

  3. Xu, X., Kuntner, M., Bond, J.E., Ono, H., Liu, F.X., Yu, L. & Li, D. 2019. A multi-tier species delimitation approach resolves conflicts in delineating the primitively segmented spider genus Heptathela endemic to Japanese islands. bioRxivdoi:

  4. Chang, C.-C, Klomp, D. A., Norma-Rashid, Y. & Li, D. 2019. Consistency in boldness expression varies with ecological context in a jumping spider.Ethology 125: 724-732.

  5. Zhang, S. C., Ai, H. & Li, D. 2019. Mating reverses a male contestant from a loser to a winner in male-male competition in a wolf spider. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 128: 83-92.

  6. Xu, X., Kuntner, M., Liu, F.X., Chen, J. & Li, D. 2018. River formation and mountain uplifting drives diversification of primitively segmented spiders in continental East Asia. Journal of Biogeography 45: 2080-2091.

  7. Chang, C-C., Lim, Z.Y., Klomp, D.A., Norma-Rashid, Y & Li, D. 2018. Aggressive spiders make wrong decisions in a complex task. Behavioral Ecology 29 (4): 848-854.

  8. Wu, Q.J., Wen, L.L., Chen, J., Li, D. & Jiao X.G. 2018. Experimental evidence for the genetic benefits of female mate choice in the monandrous wolf spider Pardosa astrigera. Animal Behaviour 144: 87-93.

  9. Painting, C.J., Nicholson, C.C., Bulbert, M.W., Normal-Rashid, Y. & Li, D. 2017. Nectary feeding and guarding behaviour by a tropical jumping spider. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 15: 469-470.

  10. Xu, X., Liu, F.X., Ono, H., Chen, J., Kuntner, M. & Li, D. 2017. Targeted sampling in Ryukyus facilitates species delimitation of the primitively segmented spider genus Ryuthela (Araneae: Mesothelae: Liphistiidae). Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 181: 867-909.

  11. Painting, C.J., Chang, C.-C., Seah, J.F. & Li, D. 2017. Condition dependence of female-specific UV-induced fluorescence in a jumping spider. Animal Behaviour 127: 233-241.

  12. Chang, C.-C., Ng, P.J. & Li, D. 2017. Aggressive jumping spiders make quicker prey-choice decisions but not at the expense of accuracy. Behavioral Ecology 28: 479-484.

  13. Chang, C.-C., Teo, H.Y. Norma-Rashid, Y. & Li, D. 2017. Predator personality and prey behavioural predictability jointly determine foraging performance. Scientific Reports 7: 40734.

  14. Chen, Z.Q., Preisser, E.L., Xiao, R., Chen, J., Li, D. & Jiao X.G. 2017. Inbreeding produces trade-offs between maternal fecundity and offspring survival in a monandrous spider. Animal Behaviour 132: 252-259.

  15. Xu, X., Liu, F.X., Chen, J., Ono, H., Li, D. & Kuntner, M. 2016. Pre-Pleistocene geological events shaping diversification and distribution of primitively segmented spiders on East Asian Margins. Journal of Biogeography 43: 1004-1019.

  16. Painting, C.J., Rajamohan, G., Chen, Z.Q., Zeng, H. & Li, D. 2016. It takes to peaks to tango: the specific importance of UVB and UVA in sexual signaling. Animal Behaviour 113: 137-146.

  17. Kuntner, M., Gregoric, M., Cheng, R-C. & Li, D. 2016. Leaf masquerade in an orb web spider. Journal of Arachnology 44: 397-400. (Cover)

  18. Xu, X., Liu, F.X., Chen, J., Li, D. & Kuntner, M. 2015. Integrative taxonomy of the primitively segmented spider genus Ganthela (Araneae: Mesothelae: Liphistiidae) – DNA barcoding gap agrees with morphology. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 175: 288-306.

  19. Xu, X., Liu, F.X., Cheng, R-C., Chen, J., Xu, X., Zhang, Z.S., Ono, H., Pham, D.S., Norma-Rashid, Y., Arnedo, M.A., Kuntner, M. & Li, D. 2015. Extant primitively segmented spiders have recently diversified from an ancient lineage. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 282: 20142486.

  20. Kuntner, M., Agnarsson, I. & Li, D. 2015. The eunuch phenomenon: adaptive evolution of genital emasculation in sexually dimorphic spiders. Biological Review 90: 278-296.

  21. Jackson, R.R., Li, D., Woon, J.R.W., Hashim, R. & Cross, F.R. 2014. Intricate predatory decisions by a mosquito-specialist spider from Malaysia. Royal Society Open Science 1: 140131.

  22. Zhang, S.C., Koh, T.H., Seah, W.K., Lai, Y.H., Elgar, M.A. & Li, D. 2012. A novel property of spider silk: chemical defence against ants. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 279: 1824-1830. Highlighted in Nature Research Highlights.

  23. Hu, Z. Y., Liu, F. X., Xu, X., Chen, Z. Q., Chen, J. & Li, D. 2012. The spectral transmission of the principal-eye corneas of jumping spiders: implications for ultraviolet vision. Journal of Experimental Biology 215: 2853-2859.

  24. Lee, Q. Q., Oh, J., Kralj-Fišer, S., Kuntner, M. & Li, D. 2012. Emasculation: gloves-off strategy enhances eunuch spider endurance. Biology Letters 8: 733-735. Highlighted in Nature Research Highlights.

  25. Li, D., Oh, J., Kralj-Fišer, S. & Kuntner, M. 2012. Remote copulation: male counter-adaptation to female cannibalism. Biology Letters 8: 512-515. Highlighted in Science News of the Week.

  26. Zou, Y., Araujo, D. P. D, Lim, M. L. M., & Li, D. 2012. Ultraviolet is a more important cue than reflection in other wavelengths for a jumping spider to locate its prey spidersAnimal Behaviour 82: 1457-1463.

  27. Zhang, S. C., Kuntner, M. & Li, D. 2011. Mate binding: a male adaptation to sexual conflict in the golden orb-web spider (Nephilidae: Nephila pilipes).  Animal Behaviour 82: 1299-1304.

  28. Kralj-Fišer, S., Gregorič, M. Zhang, S. C., Kuntner, M. & Li, D. 2011. Eunuchs are better fighters. Animal Behaviour81: 933-939.

  29. Huang, J-N., Chen, R-C., Li, D. & Tso, I-M. 2011. Salticid predation as one potential driving force of ant mimicry in jumping spiders. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 278: 1356-1364.

  30. Tan, E. J., Seah, S. W.H., Yap, L-M, Y.L., Goh, P. M., Gan, W. J., Liu, F. X. & Li, D. 2010. Why do orb-weaving spiders (Cyclosa ginnaga) decorate their webs with silk spirals and plant detritus? Animal Behaviour 79: 179-186.

  31. Tan, E. J. & Li, D. 2009. Detritus decorations of an orb-weaving spider, Cyclosa mulmeiensis (Thorell): for food or camouflage? Journal of Experimental Biology 212: 1832-1839.

  32. Li, J. J., Zhang, Z. T., Liu, F. X., Liu, Q. Q., Chen, J., Lim, M. L. M. & Li, D. 2008. UVB-based mate choice cues used by females of the jumping spider Phintella vittataCurrent Biology 18: 699-703.

  33. Lim, M. L. M., Li, J. J. & Li, D. 2008. Effect of UV-reflecting markings on female mate -choice decisions in Cosmophasis umbratica, a jumping spider from Singapore. Behavioral Ecology 19: 61-66.

  34. Lim, M. L. M., Land, M. F. & Li, D. 2007. Sex-specific UV and fluorescence signals in jumping spiders. Science 315: 481.

  35. Su, K. F. Y., Meier, R., Jackson, R. R., Harland, D. P. & Li, D. 2007. Convergent evolution of eye ultrastructure and divergent evolution of vision-mediated predatory behavior in jumping spiders. Journal of Evolutionary Biology20: 1478-1489.

  36. Land, M. F., Lim, M. L. M. & Li, D. 2007. Optics of the ultra-violet reflecting scales of a jumping spider. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 274: 1583-1589.

  37. Lim, M. L. M. & Li, D. 2007. Effects of age and feeding history on structure-based ornaments of a jumping spider.  Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 274: 569-575.

  38. Du, N., Liu, X. Y., Narayanan, J., Li, L., Lim, M. L. M. & Li, D. 2006. Design of superior spider silk: from nanostructure to mechanical properties. Biophysical Journal 91: 4528-4535.

  39. Nelson, X. J., Jackson, R. R., Li, D. 2006. Honest signalling in a Batesian mimic: conditional anti-predator behaviour in jumping spiders. Behavioral Ecology 17: 575-580.

  40. Li, D. 2005. Spiders that decorate webs at higher frequency intercept more prey and grow faster. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 272: 1753-1757.

  41. Li, D. & Lee, W. S. (2004). Predator-induced plasticity in web-building behaviour. Animal Behaviour 67: 209-318.

  42. Li, D. (2002). Hatching responses of subsocial spitting spiders to predation risk. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 269: 2155-2161.

  43. Seah, W. K. & Li, D. (2001). Stabilimenta attract unwelcome predators to orb-webs. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 268:1553-1558.