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Nuptial gifts of male spiders: sensory exploitation of the female's maternal care instinct or foraging motivation?

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  • Department of Biological Sciences, Genetics and Ecology
Nuptial feeding can evolve as sensory traps where the male exploits the female's foraging motivation in a sexual context. The nuptial prey gift of the nursery-web spider Pisaura mirabilis is wrapped in white silk, and it has been suggested that males initially exploit the maternal care instinct by producing a nuptial gift that resembles the female's eggsac. In mating experiments we examined whether males exploit the female's foraging motivation or the female's maternal care instinct. We carried out a gift-switching experiment, where males presented an eggsac, a wrapped fly or an unwrapped fly as nuptial gifts. Females fed on eggsacs as well as on prey gifts. Mating success was similar for males with both wrapped and unwrapped gifts, indicating that wrapping per se does not increase male mating success. In a food manipulation experiment, we investigated the effect of the female's hunger level on male mating success. Hungry females were more likely to accept a gift and copulate; hence the female's hunger state is decisive for male mating success. Our results strongly suggest that the female's foraging motivation is the true context for the maintenance of the nuptial gift.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAnimal Behaviour
Pages (from-to)267-273
Publication statusPublished - 2007

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