, Volume 23, Issue 1, pp 51-55
Date: 22 Oct 2004

Copulation patterns in the golden orb-web spider Nephila madagascariensis

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A consequence of multiple mating by females can be that the sperm of two or more males directly compete for the fertilisation of ova inside the female reproductive tract. Selection through sperm-competition favours males that protect their sperm against that of rivals and strategically allocate their sperm, e.g., according to the mating status of the female and the morphology of the spermatheca. In the majority of spiders, we encounter the otherwise unusual situation that females possess two independent insemination ducts, both ending in their own sperm storage organ, the spermatheca. Males have paired mating organs, but generally can only fill one spermatheca at a time. We investigated whether males of the African golden orb-web spider Nephila madagascariensis can prevent rival males from mating into the same spermatheca and whether the mating status of the female and/or the spermatheca causes differences in male mating behaviour. There was no significant difference in the duration of copulations into unused spermathecae of virgin and mated females. We found that copulations into previously inseminated spermathecae were generally possible, but shorter than copulations into the unused side of mated females or with virgins. Thus, male N. madagascariensis may have an advantage when they mate with virgins, but cannot prevent future males from mating. However, in rare instances, parts of the male genitals can completely obstruct a female genital opening.