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Trade-off between pre- and postcopulatory sexual cannibalism in a wolf spider (Araneae, Lycosidae)

Abstract

Sexual cannibalism can occur before, during or after mating. Relatively few experimental studies have examined why there is variation in the timing of sexual cannibalism. We examined the latency and number of attacks required for female spiders to capture male spiders pre- vs. postcopulation. We also examined the effects of female mating status and hunger level on the occurrence of pre- and postcopulatory cannibalism, which reflects the contribution of both relative capture success and female motivation to cannibalize males. Precopulatory cannibalism occurred after a shorter interval and required fewer chases and physical interactions for the female to successfully capture the male than was the case for postcopulatory cannibalism. Virgin females were more likely to engage in postcopulatory rather than precopulatory cannibalism and mated females vice versa. Those virgin females that did engage in precopulatory cannibalism had significantly lower body condition than virgin females engaging in postcopulatory cannibalism. While precopulatory cannibalism occurred more quickly and required fewer attacks by females, it comes at a potential cost of not mating with males. Hence, females are more likely to engage in precopulatory cannibalism if they have already mated or, if virgins, if they have low body condition. These results indicate that the decision of when to cannibalize males is dynamic and depends upon the relative value of a male as a mate versus a meal.

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Acknowledgements

We thank two anonymous reviewers for the helpful comments on a previous draft of this manuscript. We also thank members of the Miami University Spider Lab for collecting and maintaining the spiders used in these experiments. Funding was provided by the Department of Zoology at Miami University and by the National Science Foundation grant DBI-0216947 to A.L.R.

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Correspondence to Shawn M. Wilder.

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Communicated by M. Hauber

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Wilder, S.M., Rypstra, A.L. Trade-off between pre- and postcopulatory sexual cannibalism in a wolf spider (Araneae, Lycosidae). Behav Ecol Sociobiol 66, 217–222 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00265-011-1269-0

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Keywords

  • Trade-off
  • Precopulatory
  • Postcopulatory
  • Cannibalism
  • Hogna helluo