, Volume 100, Issue 5, pp 407-416
Date: 10 Apr 2013

Copulatory behavior in a pholcid spider: males use specialized genitalic movements for sperm removal and copulatory courtship

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Sexual selection may operate on pre-copulatory, copulatory, and post-copulatory traits. An example of a copulatory target of sexual selection is the genitalic movements a male performs during copulation. These movements may function either to prevent sperm competition or to influence a female’s fertilization decision. Here we investigated how copulation duration, pedipalp movements, and abdominal movements that males of the pholcid spider Holocnemus pluchei produce during copulation influence sperm removal and/or patterns of successful sperm transfer. We compared mating events with virgin and mated females for differences in copulatory and post-copulatory behavior. We expected longer copulation duration, longer pedipalp movement duration, and more complex and frequent pedipalp and abdominal movements when males mated with mated females compared to virgin females. Except for abdominal movements, our results corroborated these predictions. Furthermore, when we investigated mating events with mated females, we observed sperm mass ejection from the female gonopore and physical removal of sperm by males’ procursi. Females with interrupted second mating events showed a significant reduction of stored sperm masses compared to females with completed mating events. We suggest that males use alternating pedipalp movements to remove most of the rival sperm stored by mated females prior to sperm transfer. Copulation duration and pedipalp movements can be further used to transfer sperm and/or as a form of genitalic copulatory courtship.

Communicated by: Sven Thatje