Temperature alters multimodal signaling and mating success in an ectotherm

  • Erin E. BrandtEmail author
  • J. Patrick Kelley
  • Damian O. Elias
Original Article


Temperature affects ectotherms in a variety of ways. These effects can be especially complex in sexual behaviors, as different sexes may be affected differently by temperature. We examined this in the jumping spider, Habronattus clypeatus. In this species, males court females using visual and vibratory signals. We tested whether key intersexual behaviors would change with temperature in similar, predictable ways across males and females. We first measured temperature and apparent activity of individuals across the day. We found that H. clypeatus are active across a wide range of temperatures (11–56 °C) and are most active at times of day when temperature ranges from 13 to 46 °C. Next, we performed mating experiments across behaviorally relevant temperatures. Females were more likely to allow males to progress to later stages of courtship and had higher mating rates at higher temperatures. Male visual and vibratory courtship behaviors generally became faster, higher-pitched, and lower in amplitude at higher temperatures. This relationship between temperature and signal aspects attained a roughly curvilinear shape, with an asymptote around 40 °C. Intriguingly, mating rates in the lab were highest at temperatures potentially above those during peak spider activity in the field. Our results suggest that temperature’s effects on behavior are complex and can affect males and females differently. This work emphasizes that understanding temperature effects on mating is critical to understanding sexual selection patterns particularly in species which use complex signals.

Significance statement

Temperature affects communication in most ectothermic species. Previous research has shown that temperature changes courter signals and chooser choice. However, this has never been investigated in species that use multimodal signals. We investigate how signals and choice change across temperatures in a desert-dwelling jumping spider. Using field temperature/activity modeling and a series of courtship experiments in the lab, we show that male signals and female choice change with temperature across biologically relevant ranges. Our results suggest that the temperatures at which mating is most likely occur at times of the day when animals are least active. These counterintuitive results highlight the importance of understanding how behavior in a controlled lab environment corresponds to natural field conditions as well as the importance of examining the effects of naturally occurring environmental variation on behavior.


Communication Temperature Thermal ecology Salticidae Sexual selection Multimodal signals Vibratory communication Biotremology 



We wish to thank everyone involved in the lengthy temperature and activity surveys (Maddie Girard, Chrissy Rivera, and Chung-Huey Wu). Desdeneyra Elias, Frank Sanchez, and Gabriela Sanchez graciously provided housing during field studies, and undergraduates Karena Tang and Gordon Lau helped with feeding spiders. Masami Amakawa performed many of the room temperature mate choice trials and provided vital logistical support throughout. We would also like to thank all members of the Lacey and Elias lab groups for helpful comments and criticisms, particularly Malcolm Rosenthal. We also thank two anonymous reviewers for helpful comments on this manuscript.

Funding information

This work was supported by the National Science Foundation (award no. IOS-1556421 to DOE), by the Hellman Family Faculty Fund to JPK, and by the NSF CiBER-IGERT (award no. 0903711 to EEB).

Supplementary material

265_2018_2620_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (250 kb)
ESM 1 (PDF 249 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Environmental Sciences, Policy, and ManagementUniversity of California, BerkeleyBerkeleyUSA
  2. 2.Department of Zoology & PhysiologyUniversity of WyomingLaramieUSA

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