Short and fast vs long and slow: age changes courtship in male orb-web spiders (Argiope keyserlingi)


Male reproductive performance can vary with condition, age and future reproductive opportunities. Web-building spiders are ideal models to examine the effects of senescence on fitness-related behaviours due to strong selection on male courtship to reduce pre-copulatory sexual cannibalism. Argiope keyserlingi spiders generate courtship vibrations, or ‘shudders’, that reduce female aggression. We found that male A. keyserlingi courtship slowed with chronological age. Older males took longer to travel across the courtship thread, and overall number of shudders increased. Males retained some ability to modulate courtship quality (shudder duration and number of rocks within each shudder) in response to female quality. A change in courtship performance over time, despite strong selection for repeatability, indicates that ageing in male A. keyserlingi may have direct impacts on reproductive performance.

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We thank Adam Fisher, Annu Dharmasiri and Paul Arendse for help running experiments, and Aaron Harmer and Adam Smith for helpful discussions.

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Correspondence to James C. O’Hanlon.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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All applicable international, national and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed.

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Communicated by: Sven Thatje

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O’Hanlon, J.C., Wignall, A.E. & Herberstein, M.E. Short and fast vs long and slow: age changes courtship in male orb-web spiders (Argiope keyserlingi). Sci Nat 105, 3 (2018).

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  • Senescence
  • Silk
  • Vibratory stimuli
  • Ageing