Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 69, Issue 2, pp 313–323 | Cite as

Hairy kisses: tactile cheliceral courtship affects female mating decisions in Leucauge mariana (Araneae, Tetragnathidae)

  • Anita AisenbergEmail author
  • Gilbert Barrantes
  • William G. Eberhard
Original Paper


Sexual selection is thought to be an important force driving the evolution of sexually dimorphic morphology and behavior, but direct experimental tests of the functions of species-specific details of morphology are rare and usually incomplete. The males of most species of the large spider family Tetragnathidae possess large sexually dimorphic chelicerae that are used when the sexes lock together before and during mating. In Leucauge mariana, the female’s chelicerae clasp those of the male; mating does not begin until the female’s chelicerae seize the male and does not end until they release him. In addition, females contribute material to form genital plugs in the female’s genitalia. Male chelicerae have sexually dimorphic and species-specific setae and ledges in areas that contact the female during cheliceral clasps. We tested the hypothesis that stimuli from these structures trigger mating processes that are controlled by the female which could increase male reproductive success. We reduced or eliminated possible stimulation of the female in two ways: removing male cheliceral setae that contact the female, and removing setae on the female’s chelicerae and endites that are contacted by and could thus be stimulated by the male’s chelicerae and their setae. Both male and female modifications had similar effects that likely reduced the male’s chances of paternity: female receptivity to re-mating increased, copulatory plug formation decreased, and interruptions during copulation became more frequent. As expected under the stimulation hypothesis, blocking female sensory abilities generally had greater effects on these responses than modifying male stimulatory structures.


Sexual selection Cryptic female choice Experimental manipulation Cheliceral clasp Leucauge 



We thank the Sistema Nacional de Investigadores (Agencia Nacional de Investigación e Innovación) and Programa de Desarrollo de las Ciencias Básicas (AA), the Vicerrectoría de Investigación of the Universidad de Costa Rica (GB, WGE), and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (WGE) for financial support. The editor and two anonymous reviewers improved the final version of the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anita Aisenberg
    • 1
    Email author
  • Gilbert Barrantes
    • 2
  • William G. Eberhard
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Laboratorio de Etología, Ecología y EvoluciónInstituto de Investigaciones Biológicas Clemente EstableMontevideoUruguay
  2. 2.Escuela de BiologíaUniversidad de Costa RicaCiudad UniversitariaCosta Rica
  3. 3.Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Department of BiologyLouisiana State UniversityBaton RougeUSA

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