Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 63, Issue 11, pp 1573–1580 | Cite as

Male mating preference is associated with risk of pre-copulatory cannibalism in a socially polymorphic spider

  • Jonathan N. Pruitt
  • Susan E. Riechert
Original Paper


We performed male attraction experiments and staged courtship sequences to test for non-random mating with respect to social behavioral phenotype in the comb-footed spider, Anelosimus studiosus. While asocial behavior is the dominant phenotype in all A. studiosus populations examined to date, a social phenotype approaches a frequency of 15% in colder environments. We collected test subjects from higher latitude polymorphic populations and scored all individuals as to their behavioral phenotype prior to their use in these trials. Males of both phenotypes differentially approached and courted social females over asocial females and no-spider controls. By offering males different numbers of females of one type vs. the other in subsequent trials, we determined that the difference in attractiveness between the two phenotypes social/asocial is 1.5/1. Both the web produced by a female and a female that has been removed from its web attract males. We suggest that the male attracting pheromone is present on females and is also attached to silk threads. Staged encounters completed between males and females of the respective phenotypes demonstrated that courting males suffer significantly less pre-copulatory sexual cannibalism with social females than with asocial ones, and thus, female social tendency is phenotypically linked to sexual aggression. We propose that the male preference for social females is adaptive because of the observed asymmetry in courtship success.


Anelosimus studiosus Sexual cannibalism Mate choice Behavioral syndrome Sexual conflict 



We are indebted to Sarah Duncan, Jamie Troupe, Chris Boake, Jim Fordyce, Ben Fitzpatrick, Todd Freeberg, Gordon Burghardt, Thomas Jones, and Jason Jones for their comments on previous versions of this manuscript. We would also like to thank the contributions of the editor and two anonymous reviewers, whose comments greatly improved the quality of this manuscript. The experiment presented herein complies with all laws of the USA.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of TennesseeKnoxvilleUSA

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