Journal of Ethology

, Volume 36, Issue 2, pp 191–197 | Cite as

The role of silk in courtship and chemical communication of the false widow spider, Steatoda grossa (Araneae: Theridiidae)

  • Catherine ScottEmail author
  • Chloe Gerak
  • Sean McCann
  • Gerhard Gries
Short Communication


In spiders, sex pheromones are often associated with silk produced by females, and function in mate attraction, recognition, and evaluation. Silk-bound pheromones typically elicit courtship behaviour in web-building spiders. Here we (1) describe courtship interactions of Steatoda grossa males with virgin or mated females, and (2) show that silk and methanol extracts of silk produced by virgin females trigger courtship behaviour (silk production) by males, whereas silk of mated females does not. Our results indicate that (1) virgin females produce a silk-bound sex pheromone, (2) males discriminate between virgin and mated females based on silk cues, and (3) male silk likely functions in sexual communication.


Courtship behaviour Mating Sex pheromone Web reduction Spider silk 



We thank Robb Bennett for confirming our identification of the spiders and two anonymous reviewers for constructive comments on the manuscript. The research was supported by a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada-Industrial Research Chair to G. G., with Scotts Canada as the industrial sponsor.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

We followed the guidelines of the Canadian Council on Animal Care.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Japan Ethological Society and Springer Japan KK, part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesSimon Fraser UniversityBurnabyCanada

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