Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 62, Issue 1, pp 29–35 | Cite as

Daring females, devoted males, and reversed sexual size dimorphism in the sand-dwelling spider Allocosa brasiliensis (Araneae, Lycosidae)

  • Anita AisenbergEmail author
  • Carmen Viera
  • Fernando G. Costa
Original Paper


Sexual selection theory predicts that a higher investment in offspring will turn females into the selective sex, while males will compete for accessing and courting them. However, there are exceptions to the rule. When males present a high reproductive investment, sex roles can reverse from typical patterns, turning males into the choosy sex, while females locate males and initiate courtship. In many spiders, males are smaller than females, wandering in search of sedentary females and maximizing the number of copulations. In the present study, we present findings on the sand-dwelling wolf spider, Allocosa brasiliensis, evidencing a reversal in typical courtship roles reported for the first time in spiders. Males were bigger than females. Females located males and initiated courtship. Copulation always occurred in male burrows and took place mainly in long burrows. Males donated their burrows to the females after copulation, closing the entrance before leaving with female cooperation from inside. Males would provide females with a secure place for ovipositing, being exposed to predation and diminishing their future mating possibilities until constructing a new burrow. The cost of vacating the burrow and losing the refuge in an unpredictable habitat, such as sand dunes, would explain the courtship roles reversal in this spider species. Results turn A. brasiliensis as a promising model for discussing the determinants of sex roles and the pressures that drive their evolution and maintenance.


Wolf spider Sex roles Sexual size dimorphism reversal 



Martín Graña, Alfredo Peretti, Fernando Pérez-Miles, and Sergio Martínez for their useful comments on a previous version of the manuscript. We are grateful to Darryl Gwynne, Yael Lubin, Matthias Foellmer, and an anonymous reviewer for their suggestions that substantially improved the manuscript. Rodrigo Postiglioni helped converting the videos to digital format. The study was supported by a grant awarded to AA from PEDECIBA, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad de la República, Uruguay. Experiments comply with current Uruguayan and institutional laws.

Supplementary material

Video S1

Male closing the burrow entrance and guarding after the copulation, while the female liberates silk and collaborates in closing the entrance from inside the burrow (WMV 1.1 MB)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anita Aisenberg
    • 1
    Email author
  • Carmen Viera
    • 2
  • Fernando G. Costa
    • 1
  1. 1.Laboratorio de Etología, Ecología y EvoluciónInstituto de Investigaciones Biológicas Clemente EstableMontevideoUruguay
  2. 2.Sección EntomologíaFacultad de CienciasMontevideoUruguay

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