, Volume 17, Issue 1, pp 129-144

Variable Female Mating Positions and Offspring Sex Ratio in the Spider Pityohyphantes phrygianus (Araneae: Linyphiidae)

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Abstract

Chromosomal sex determination and male heterogamety have been thought to seriously impede direct sex ratio control. However, in Pityohyphantes phrygianus, a solitary sheetweb spider with a skewed sex ratio, earlier experimental studies suggested that there are options for female control of offspring sex ratio, if females change their position during the normal mating sequence. Here we show that under natural conditions there is considerable between-female variation in positions, especially after termination of mating. Computer simulations of the orientation of female inner genitalia suggest that sperm are placed in different storage sites depending on the positions adopted. This means that a specific position after mating might potentially influence offspring sex ratio. The variance in offspring sex ratio among females in earlier experiments was binomially distributed, which leads us to conclude that females control the mean sex ratio but do not exercise direct control of the sex of individual offspring.