The shield effect: nuptial gifts protect males against pre-copulatory sexual cannibalism

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Several not mutually exclusive functions have been ascribed to nuptial gifts across different taxa. Although the idea that a nuptial prey gift may protect the male from pre-copulatory sexual cannibalism is attractive, it has previously been considered of no importance based on indirect evidence and rejected by experimental tests. We reinvestigated whether nuptial gifts may function as a shield against female attacks during mating encounters in the spider Pisaura mirabilis and whether female hunger influences the likelihood of cannibalistic attacks. The results showed that pre-copulatory sexual cannibalism was enhanced when males courted without a gift and this was independent of female hunger. We propose that the nuptial gift trait has evolved partly as a counteradaptation to female aggression in this spider species.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBiology Letters
Volume12
Issue5
ISSN1744-9561
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2016

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