Interspecific interactions form the cornerstone of niche theory in community ecology. The 7-year study In Focus here supports the view that variation within species could also be crucially important. Spider communities created experimentally in the wild, with either aggressive or docile individuals of the same founder species, were highly divergent in patterns of community succession for several years. Eventually, they converged on the same community composition only to collapse entirely shortly after, apparently because of the specific mix of aggression phenotypes within and between species just before collapse. These results suggest numerous avenues of research for behavioural ecology and evolutionary community ecology in metapopulations, and could help to resolve differences between competing theories.