Academic journal article The American Midland Naturalist

The Effect of Experience on Male Courtship and Mating Behaviors in a Cellar Spider

Academic journal article The American Midland Naturalist

The Effect of Experience on Male Courtship and Mating Behaviors in a Cellar Spider

Article excerpt


Experience effects on mating have been implicated as important factors that can account for some of the variability in responses by prospective mates. Previous studies have demonstrated that sexual experience and learning can play significant roles in female choice; however, few studies have concentrated on experience effects in males. Using a partially sex-role reversed cellar spider, Pholcus phalangioides, in two laboratory experiments, we addressed the importance of male experience with (1) nonvirgin female cues associated with silk and (2) virgin females on a suite of male behaviors associated with mating. We discovered that males experienced with female silk and associated cues courted nonvirgin females for a longer duration than inexperienced males. Courtship latency and courtship duration had significant effects on mating success in trials involving inexperienced, but not experienced males. Female leg length affected the mating success of experienced, but not inexperienced males. Interestingly, no males mated twice when sequentially presented with two virgin females over a 24 h period, and most mated males (92%) failed to court the second female. Our findings suggest that male experience affects mating behaviors with both mated and virgin females and that males may be sperm limited.


Environmentally-induced variation in mating behaviors such as courtship and mate choice has important implications for models of sexual selection since those models generally assume a genetically variable male trait and a corresponding, genetically variable female preference (Andersson, 1994; Jennions and Pétrie, 1997). The emphasis on the genetic underpinnings of mating behaviors has led to this traditional view, which has strong support from selection experiments and studies of additive genetic variance (e.g., Bakker and Pomiankowski, 1995; Pomiankowski and M0ller, 1995; Jennions and Pétrie, 1997). However, a growing body of evidence reveals that courtship and mating behaviors are also sensitive to context and condition and are more flexible than previously perceived (Dugatkin, 1996; Owens et al., 1999; White, 2004; Dukas, 2006) . To better understand the evolutionary role of these behaviors, it is important to address if and how they may be modulated by environmental variables in controlled experiments (Slagsvold et al., 2002; Kavaliers et al., 2003).

Numerous studies have revealed a variety of environmental effects on mating behaviors. For example, food availability affects the mating tactics (viz. interference competition) employed by male guppies, Poealia reticulata, (Kolluru et al., 2007) as well as the courtship rates of male damselfish, Stegastes partitus, (Knapp, 1995). Temporal-dependent female choice is characteristic of bivoltine pierid butterflies, Leptidea reali, with spring generation females exhibiting higher male rejection rates than summer generation females (Friberg & Wiklund, 2007) . Also, the density of conspecifics can influence mate choice. For example, female bushcrickets (Xederra charactus) adjust mate sampling tactics in response to male density and are less likely to reject males under low mate density conditions (Lehmann, 2007).

Exposure to con- and in some cases heterospecifics can strongly shape mate choice and mating behaviors. For example, female house mice (Mus Musculus domesticus) normally have strong mating preferences for males that are most genetically dissimilar at the major histocompatibility complex, and Ulis bias is based on familial imprinting. Female preferences can be reversed if they are raised in a fostered family (Penn and Potts, 1998). The unisexual Amazon molly, Poeälia formosa, uses the sperm of heterospecifics for gynogenetic reproduction and prefers those males with whom they have been raised (Korner et al, 1999). Similarly, exposure of male garter snakes (Thamnophis sirtalis) to females of different sizes causes them to alter their courtship criteria (Shine et al. …

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