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Why do males of the spider Pisaura mirabilis wrap their nuptial gifts in silk: Female preference or male control?

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  • Department of Biological Sciences, Genetics and Ecology
Males of the spider Pisaura mirabilis present a nuptial prey gift to the female during courtship as a mating effort. The gift is usually round and wrapped in white silk. It was suggested that the wrapped gift functions as a sensory trap by mimicking the female's eggsac implying that males exploit the female maternal care instinct and not her foraging motivation in a sexual context. The shape of the gift (round) and appearance (white) should then increase female acceptance of males. We tested these predictions experimentally and found that neither gift shape (round or oblong) nor silk wrapping (wrapped or unwrapped) facilitated female acceptance, in contrast unwrapped gifts were accepted faster than wrapped ones. Instead, we found that silk wrapping benefited the males because it significantly decreased the risk of females stealing the gift without copulation and consequently directly increased male mating success. Large oblong gifts were difficult for males to handle during copulation, resulting in shorter copulations for oblong vs. round gifts. Thus, round gifts were not preferred by the females but were beneficial to the males. Our results indicate two adaptive benefits to males of wrapping the nuptial gift: to reduce the risk of losing the gift to females without copulation, and make it possible to reshape an oblong prey into a round gift that facilitates the male's access to the female's genitalia. Our results suggest that the male gift wrapping trait may be selected though sexual conflict over remating rate.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)775-781
Publication statusPublished - 2008

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