, Volume 40, Issue 2, pp 127-133

Sexual cohabitation as mate-guarding in the leaf-curling spider Phonognatha graeffei  Keyserling (Araneoidea, Araneae)

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The leaf-curling spider Phonognatha graeffei incorporates a twisted leaf into the central hub of its orb-web that is used as a retreat. This species is unusual among orb-weaving spiders because males cohabit in the leaf retreat with both immature and mature females, mating with the former shortly after the female molts. Cohabitation appears to be a form of mate-guarding because cohabiting males respond agonistically to rival males that venture onto the web, and their behaviour depends upon the reproductive status of the female; males defending immature females are more aggressive than those defending virgin, adult females. Males copulate with previously mated females for significantly longer than with virgin females. Females may cannibalise cohabiting males, which occurs independently of whether the female has been deprived of food. Females that cannibalise a single male do not have a higher fecundity than non-cannibalistic females.