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

Abstract

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.

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Acknowledgments

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.

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Correspondence to Maria J. Albo.

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Communicated by: Sven Thatje

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Trillo, M.C., Melo-González, V. & Albo, M.J. Silk wrapping of nuptial gifts as visual signal for female attraction in a crepuscular spider. Naturwissenschaften 101, 123–130 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00114-013-1139-x

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Keywords

  • Female visual attraction
  • Nuptial gifts in spiders
  • Paratrechalea ornata
  • Condition dependence