Journal of Ethology

, Volume 27, Issue 3, pp 377–383 | Cite as

Male mating behaviour reduces the risk of sexual cannibalism in an Australian praying mantid

  • Katherine L. Barry
  • Gregory I. Holwell
  • Marie E. Herberstein


In cases where sexual cannibalism represents a sexual conflict, we should expect to find male traits that reduce the risk of cannibalism. In fact, a wide variety of such traits have been proposed, including elaborate courtship displays, cautious approach behaviours, and opportunistic mating whilst a female is feeding. However, there is very little direct evidence that these behaviours actually reduce the risk of sexual cannibalism for males, and the evidence that does exist comes mainly from spider studies. In this study of Pseudomantis albofimbriata praying mantids we found evidence of various male behaviours that reduced the risk of sexual cannibalism. Most males attempted to avoid detection entirely and others moved in a slow and stealthy manner. We also observed five cases of opportunistic mating, but saw no evidence of any male courtship routine. It seems that mounting from the rear of a female or slowly approaching her from the front, allows many males to go unnoticed and, therefore, substantially reduces the risk of sexual cannibalism in this mating system. Interestingly, we could not identify any female traits that males use to assess the risk of sexual cannibalism. It may be that P. albofimbriata males use alternative means to assess these risks. The presence of these behavioural strategies by males suggests a net cost of being consumed, and that sexual cannibalism is likely to be a female strategy in this system.


Sexual cannibalism Mating behaviour Risk avoidance Praying mantid Pseudomantis albofimbriata 



Many thanks to Melissa Turoczy, Jody Tropiano, and Richard Peters for their help with specimen collection, to Roberto Reyes and Rachael Dryden for help with experimentation, to Radovan Vaclav and Rex Cocroft for their helpful comments regarding the manuscript, and to Macquarie University and the Linnean Society of NSW for funding this research.


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Copyright information

© Japan Ethological Society and Springer 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Katherine L. Barry
    • 1
  • Gregory I. Holwell
    • 1
    • 2
  • Marie E. Herberstein
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesMacquarie UniversityNorth RydeAustralia
  2. 2.School of Biological SciencesAuckland UniversityAucklandNew Zealand

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