, Volume 101, Issue 2, pp 123–130 | Cite as

Silk wrapping of nuptial gifts as visual signal for female attraction in a crepuscular spider

  • Mariana C. Trillo
  • Valentina Melo-González
  • Maria J. AlboEmail author
Original Paper


An extensive diversity of nuptial gifts is known in invertebrates, but prey wrapped in silk is a unique type of gift present in few insects and spiders. Females from spider species prefer males offering a gift accepting more and longer matings than when males offered no gift. Silk wrapping of the gift is not essential to obtain a mating, but appears to increase the chance of a mating evidencing a particularly intriguing function of this trait. Consequently, as other secondary sexual traits, silk wrapping may be an important trait under sexual selection, if it is used by females as a signal providing information on male quality. We aimed to understand whether the white color of wrapped gifts is used as visual signal during courtship in the spider Paratrechalea ornata. We studied if a patch of white paint on the males’ chelicerae is attractive to females by exposing females to males: with their chelicerae painted white; without paint; and with the sternum painted white (paint control). Females contacted males with white chelicerae more often and those males obtained higher mating success than other males. Thereafter, we explored whether silk wrapping is a condition-dependent trait and drives female visual attraction. We exposed good and poor condition males, carrying a prey, to the female silk. Males in poor condition added less silk to the prey than males in good condition, indicating that gift wrapping is an indicator of male quality and may be used by females to acquire information of the potential mate.


Female visual attraction Nuptial gifts in spiders Paratrechalea ornata Condition dependence 



We thank Fernando G. Costa, Alicia Postiglioni, Silvana Burela, Macarena González, Diego Cavassa, Laura Montes de Oca, and Estefanía Stanley for their help in field collections; Laura Montes de Oca for the help in spider maintenance; and Macarena González for the help in the use of J-Watcher. Aarhus University provided access to the statistical package JMP 7.0 software (SAS institute). We thank Søren Toft, Fernando G. Costa, Gilbert Barrantes, Trine Bilde, Luciana Baruffaldi, Luiz Ernesto Costa-Schmidt, Editor in Chief Sven Thatje, and five anonymous reviewers for constructive comments on the manuscript. We especially thank Rafael Rodriguez, Carla Kruk, and Angel Segura for their valuable help with the statistics and James Simonds for the English corrections. M.J. Albo was supported by ANII, Ph.D. fellowship 2011–2013; by Animal Behavior Society, Student Research Award 2011 and by The American Arachnological Society and Vincent Roth Research Funds 2011.


  1. Albo MJ, Costa FG (2010) Nuptial gift-giving behaviour and male mating effort in the Neotropical spider Paratrechalea ornata (Trechaleidae). Anim Behav 79:1031–1036CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Albo MJ, Costa-Schmidt LE, Costa FG (2009) To feed or to wrap? Female silk cues elicit male nuptial gift construction in a semiaquatic trechaleid spider. J Zool 277:284–290CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Albo MJ, Winther G, Tuni C, Toft S, Bilde T (2011a) Worthless donations: male deception and female counter play a gift-giving spider. BMC Evol Biol 11:329PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Albo MJ, Toft S, Bilde T (2011b) Condition dependence of male nuptial gift construction in the spider Pisaura mirabilis (Pisauridae). J Ethol 29:473–479CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Albo MJ, Toft S, Bilde T (2012) Female spiders ignore condition-dependent information from nuptial gift wrapping when choosing mates. Anim Behav 84:907–912CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Albo MJ, Toft S, Bilde T (2014) Sexual selection, ecology and evolution of nuptial gifts in spiders. In: Macedo R and Machado G (eds) Sexual selection: perspectives and models from the Neotropics, Elsevier Inc, pp 183–200Google Scholar
  7. Andersen T, Bollerup K, Toft S, Blide T (2008) Why do males of the spider Pisaura mirabilis wrap their nuptial gifts in silk: female preference of male control? Ethology 114:775–781CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Andrade MBC (1996) Sexual selection for male sacrifice in the Australian redback spider. Science 271:70–72CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Barrantes G, Eberhard WG (2007) The evolution of prey-wrapping behaviour in spiders. J Nat Hist 41:1631–1658CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Barth FG (2002) A spider’s world: senses and behavior. Springer, BerlinCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Basolo AL (1990) Female preference predates the evolution of the sword in swordtail-fish. Science 250:808–809PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Basolo AL (1991) Male swords and female preferences. Science 253:1426–1427PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Bilde T, Tuni C, Elsayed R, Pekar S, Toft S (2007) Nuptial gifts of male spiders: sensory exploitation of the female’s maternal care instinct or foraging motivation? Anim Behav 73:267–273CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Blumstein DT, Daniel JC, Evans CS (2000) JWatcher. Version 0.9.
  15. Bristowe WS (1958) The world of spiders. Collins, LondonGoogle Scholar
  16. Brum PED, Costa-Schmidt LE, Araújo AM (2012) It is a matter of taste: chemical signals mediate nuptial gift acceptance in a neotropical spider. Behav Ecol 23:442–447CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Christy JH (1995) Mimicry, mate choice, and the sensory trap hypothesis. Am Nat 146:171–181CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Christy JH, Backwell PRY, Schober U (2003a) Interspecific attractiveness of structures built by courting male fiddler crabs: experimental evidence of a sensory trap. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 53:84–91Google Scholar
  19. Christy JH, Baum JK, Backwell PRY (2003b) Attractivenes of sand hoods built by courting male fiddler crabs, Uca musica: test of a sensory trap hypothesis. Anim Behav 66:89–94CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Coddington JA (2005) Phylogeny and classification. In: Ubick D, Paquin P, Cushing PE, Roth V (eds) Spiders of North America: an identification manual, American Arachnological Society, pp 18–24Google Scholar
  21. Costa-Schmidt LE, Araújo AM (2008) Sexual dimorphism in chelicerae size in three species of nuptial-gift spiders: a discussion of possible functions and driving selective forces. J Zool 275:307–313CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Costa-Schmidt LE, Carico JE, Araújo AM (2008) Nuptial gifts and sexual behavior in two species of spider (Araneae, Trechaleidae, Paratrechalea). Naturwissenschaften 8:731–739CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Engels S, Sauer KP (2006) Resource-dependent nuptial feeding in Panorpa vulgaris: an honest signal for male quality. Behav Ecol 17:628–632CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Foelix RF (2011) Biology of spiders, 3rd edn. Oxford University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  25. Griswold CE (1993) Investigations into the phylogeny of the lycosoid spiders and their kin (Arachnida, Araneae, Lycosoidea). Smithson Contrib Zool 539:1–39CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Gwynne DT (2008) Sexual conflict over nuptial gifts in insects. Annu Rev Entomol 53:83–101PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Hammer Ø, Harper DAT, Ryan PD (2003) PAST—Palaeontological statistics software package for education and data analysis. Version 1.18
  28. Hebets EA, Uetz GW (2000) Leg ornamentation and the efficacy of courtship display in four species of wolf spider Araneae: Lycosidae). Behav Ecol Sociobiol 47:280–286CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Hebets EA, Wesson J, Shamble PS (2008) Diet influences mate choice selectivity in adult female wolf spiders. Anim Behav 76:355–363CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Herberstein ME (2011) Spider behaviour; flexibility and versatility. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Huber AB (1997) Evidence for gustatorial courtship in a haplogyne spider Hedypsilus culicinus (Pholcidae: Araneae). Neth J Zool 47:95–98CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Jakob EM, Marshall SD, Uetz GW (1996) Estimating fitness: a comparison of body condition indices. Oikos 77:61–67CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Klein AL, Trillo MC, Costa FG, Albo MJ (2013) Nuptial gift size, mating duration and remating success in the spider Paratrechalea ornata. Ethol Ecol Evol. doi: 10.1080/03949370.2013.850452 Google Scholar
  34. Kotiaho JS (2002) Sexual selection and condition dependence of courtship display in three species of horned dung beetles. Behav Ecol 13:791–799CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Kunz K, Garbe S, Uhl G (2012) The function of the secretory cephalic hump in males of the dwarf spider Oedothorax retusus (Linyphiidae: Erigoninae). Anim Behav 83:511–517CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Lang A (1996) Silk investment in gifts by males of the nuptial feeding spider Pisaura mirabilis (Araneae: Pisauridae). Behaviour 133:697–716CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Lewis SM, South A (2012) The evolution of animal nuptial gifts. In: Brockmann HJ, Roper TJ, Naguib M, Mitani JC, Simmons LW (eds), Advances in the study of behavior, pp 53–97Google Scholar
  38. Lopez A (1987) Glandular aspects of sexual biology. In: Nentwig W (ed) Ecophysiology of spiders. Springer, Heidelberg, pp 121–132CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Madden JR, Tanner K (2003) Preferences for colored bower decorations can be explained in a nonsexual context. Anim Behav 65:1077–1083CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Michalik P, Uhl G (2011) Cephalic modifications in dimorphic dwarf spiders of the genus Oedothorax (Erigoninae, Linyphiidae, Araneae). J Morphol 272:814–832PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Nørgaard T (2005) Nocturnal navigation in Leucorchestris arenicola (Araneae, Saparrasidae). J Arachnol 33:533–540CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Parri S, Alatalo RV, Kotiaho J, Mappes J (1997) Female choice for male drumming in the wolf spider Hygrolycosa rubrofasciata. Anim Behav 53:305–312CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Proctor HC (1991) Courtship in the water mite Neumania papillator: males capitalize on female adaptations for predation. Anim Behav 42:589–598CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Proctor HC (1992) Sensory exploitation and the evolution of male mating behaviour: a cladistic test using water mites (Acari: Parasitengona). Anim Behav 44:745–752CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Prokop P, Maxwell MR (2009) Female feeding and polyandry in the nuptially feeding nursery web spider, Pisaura mirabilis. Naturwissenschaften 96:259–265PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Reinhardt K, Naylor R, Siva-Jothy MT (2009) Situation exploitation: higher male mating success when female resistance is reduced by feeding. Evolution 63:29–39PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Rodd FH, Hughes KA, Grether GF, Baril CT (2002) A possible non-sexual origin of mate preference: are male guppies mimicking fruit? Proc R Soc Lond B 269:475–481CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Ryan MJ, Fox JH, Wilczynski W, Rand AS (1990) Sexual selection for sensory exploitation in the frog Physalaemus pustulosus. Nature 343:66–67PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Sakaluk SK (1984) Male crickets (Gryllodes supplicans) feed females to ensure complete sperm transfer. Science 223:609–610PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Sakaluk SK (2000) Sensory exploitation as an evolutionary origin to nuptial food gifts in insects. Proc R Soc Lond 267:339–343CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Simmons LW, Beesley L, Lindhjem P, Newbound D, Norris J, Wayne A (1998) Nuptial feeding by male bushcrickets: an indicator of male quality? Behav Ecol 3:263–269Google Scholar
  52. Stålhandske P (2001) Nuptial gift in the spider Pisaura mirabilis maintained by sexual selection. Behav Ecol 6:691–697CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Stålhandske P (2002) Nuptial gifts of male spiders function as sensory traps. Proc R Soc Lond B 269:905–908CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Uetz GW, Papke R, Kilinc B (2002) Influence of feeding regime on body size, body condition and a male secondary sexual character in Schizocosa ocreata wolf spiders (Araneae, Lycosidae): condition-dependent in a visual signaling trait. J Arachnol 30:461–469CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Vahed K (1998) The function of nuptial feeding in insects: review of empirical studies. Biol Rev 73:43–78CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Vahed K (2007) All that glisters not gold: sensory bias, sexual conflict and nuptial feeding in insects and spiders. Ethology 113:105–127CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Vanacker D, Maes L, Pardo S, Hendrickx F, Maelfait JP (2003) Is the hairy groove in the gibbosus male morph of Oedothorax gibbosus (Blackwall 1841) a nuptial feeding device? J Arachnol 31:309–315CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. West-Eberhard MJ (1984) Sexual selection, competitive communication and species-specific signals in insects. In: insect communication. Academic Press, Toronto, pp 283–324Google Scholar
  59. Zahavi A (1975) Mate selection: a selection for a handicap. J Theor Biol 53:205–214PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Zahavi A, Zahavi A (1997) The handicap principle: a missing piece of Darwin’s puzzle. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mariana C. Trillo
    • 1
  • Valentina Melo-González
    • 1
  • Maria J. Albo
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Laboratorio de Etología, Ecología y EvoluciónInstituto de Investigaciones Biológicas Clemente EstableMontevideoUruguay

Personalised recommendations