Silk wrapping of nuptial gifts as visual signal for female attraction in a crepuscular spider
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An extensive diversity of nuptial gifts is known in invertebrates, but prey wrapped in silk is a unique type of gift present in few insects and spiders. Females from spider species prefer males offering a gift accepting more and longer matings than when males offered no gift. Silk wrapping of the gift is not essential to obtain a mating, but appears to increase the chance of a mating evidencing a particularly intriguing function of this trait. Consequently, as other secondary sexual traits, silk wrapping may be an important trait under sexual selection, if it is used by females as a signal providing information on male quality. We aimed to understand whether the white color of wrapped gifts is used as visual signal during courtship in the spider Paratrechalea ornata. We studied if a patch of white paint on the males’ chelicerae is attractive to females by exposing females to males: with their chelicerae painted white; without paint; and with the sternum painted white (paint control). Females contacted males with white chelicerae more often and those males obtained higher mating success than other males. Thereafter, we explored whether silk wrapping is a condition-dependent trait and drives female visual attraction. We exposed good and poor condition males, carrying a prey, to the female silk. Males in poor condition added less silk to the prey than males in good condition, indicating that gift wrapping is an indicator of male quality and may be used by females to acquire information of the potential mate.