, Volume 96, Issue 2, pp 259-265

Female feeding regime and polyandry in the nuptially feeding nursery web spider, Pisaura mirabilis

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We examined the influence of female feeding regime on polyandry in the nuptially feeding nursery web spider (Pisaura mirabilis). In this species, the nuptial gift, a dead prey item wrapped in the male’s silk, is physically separate from the ejaculate. We manipulated female feeding regime (starved or fed) and the presence or absence of a gift with three successive males to test direct-benefits hypotheses (nuptial gift or sperm supply) for the expression of polyandry. The presence of a gift was necessary for copulation, as no male without a gift successfully copulated. Female mating behavior most strongly supports polyandry due to the accumulation of gifted food items (“nuptial gift” direct-benefits hypothesis). Starved females that were presented with a gift accepted significantly more gifts and inseminations than fed females. Most starved females (74%) copulated two or more times, as opposed to only 3% of the fed females. Nearly all of the females that accepted a gift subsequently copulated. The nuptial gift item seems to function as male mating effort and females appear to receive multiple matings as part of a feeding strategy.