Limb regeneration and subsequent asymmetry in a male secondary sexual character influences sexual selection in wolf spiders
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Males of the brush-legged wolf spider Schizocosa ocreata (Hentz) have conspicuously decorated forelegs used in courtship and agonistic displays. Approximately one in five juvenile males has a missing or regenerating foreleg, and regeneration of a leg lost during development usually results in the absence of a decorative tuft on that leg. The subsequent asymmetry in this male secondary character significantly decreases success in both courtship of females and male-male agonistic interactions. Experimental removal of tufts from one leg of previously successful symmetric males produces similar results. As a test for concomitant behavioral effects, female spiders were shown video images of a courting male with symmetric tufts and the same video image altered to have asymmetric tufts. Female receptivity to the asymmetric video image was lower. In contrast to fluctuating asymmetry resulting from developmental instability, leg tuft asymmetry in S. ocreata most likely arises from a single event during ontogeny – possibly leg loss from an aggressive or predator encounter – and may serve as a quality indicator in female mate choice.
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