Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 63, Issue 1, pp 85–94 | Cite as

Resource defense polygyny shifts to female defense polygyny over the course of the reproductive season of a Neotropical harvestman

  • Bruno A. Buzatto
  • Glauco Machado
Original Paper


Although studies classify the polygynous mating system of a given species into female defense polygyny (FDP) or resource defense polygyny (RDP), the boundary between these two categories is often slight. Males of some species may even shift between these two types of polygyny in response to temporal variation in social and environmental conditions. Here, we examine the mating system of the Neotropical harvestman Acutisoma proximum and, in order to assess if mate acquisition in males corresponds to FDP or RDP, we tested four contrasting predictions derived from the mating system theory. At the beginning of the reproductive season, males fight with other males for the possession of territories on the vegetation where females will later oviposit, as expected in RDP. Females present a marked preference for specific host plant species, and males establish their territories in areas where these host plants are specially abundant, which is also expected in RDP. Later in the reproductive season, males reduce their patrolling activity and focus on defending individual females that are ovipositing inside their territories, as what occurs in FDP. This is the first described case of an arachnid that exhibits a shift in mating system over the reproductive season, revealing that we should be cautious when defining the mating system of a species based on few observations concentrated in a brief period.


Gonyleptidae Harem Host plant selection Male territoriality Opiliones Resource holding potential Resource value 



We are very grateful to the staff of Intervales State Park for logistical support, to T.M. Del Corso, N. Leiner, C.F. Lerche, P.M. Nassar, T.M. Nazareth, R.L. Paiva, and specially to G.S. Requena for helping with the fieldwork, to M. Almeida-Neto, S. Koehler, and L.D. Meirelles for the identification of host plant species, and to Drs. John Alcock, Carlos Cordero, Marcelo O. Gonzaga, Darryl Gwynne, and three anonymous reviewers who kindly provided useful comments on a previous version of the manuscript. The study was supported by fellowships from the Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo (FAPESP, 02/00381-0 and 03/05427-0) and Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior (CAPES).

Supplementary material

265_2008_638_MOESM1_ESM.doc (60 kb)
Electronic Supplemental Material S1 (DOC 59.5 KB)
265_2008_638_Fig1_ESM.gif (7 kb)
Fig. S2

Relationship among resource value (RV, measured as the ITQ of males’ territories), male resource holding potential (RHP, measured as the length of the males’ sexually dimorphic leg II), and male reproductive success (RS, indirectly measured as the number of egg-guarding females inside males’ harems) in the harvestman Acutisoma proximum. (a) RHP vs. RS (r = 0.64; n = 15; P = 0.010); (b) RHP vs. RV (r = -0.276; n = 15; P = 0.320); (c) RV vs. RS (r = -0.198; n = 15; P = 0.479). For comparative purposes, see Table 4 from Kelly (2008), which provides effect sizes (r) for 22 animal species in which these three relationships have been investigated.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Programa de Pós-graduação em Ecologia, Instituto de BiologiaUniversidade Estadual de CampinasCampinasBrazil
  2. 2.Departamento de Ecologia, Instituto de BiociênciasUniversidade de São PauloSão PauloBrazil

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