Male mate choice in a sexually cannibalistic widow spider

Shevy Waner
Uzi Motro
Yael Lubin
Ally R. Harari

Males of the brown widow spider,Latrodectusgeometricus(Theridiidae), invest energy in courtship displays and are often cannibalized after mating;accordingly, partial sex role reversal is expected. In this species, subadult females are able to mate and produce viable offspring. In contrast to mature females, these subadult females do not cannibalize their mates after copulation. Nevertheless, when given a choice, males preferred mature over subadult females and older over young mature females. We found no benefit for males in mating with the females of their choice. Older females weresignificantly less fecund than young mature females, and werenot more fecund than subadult females. We tested possible advantages in mating with cannibalistic (mature) females, such as an increased probability of plugging the female’s genital duct or longer copulations,or disadvantages in mating with subadult females, such as higher remating risk. None of these explanations was supported. Thus, we lack an adaptive explanation for male preference for mature older females. We suggest that older females produce more pheromone to attract males and that males are thus misled into mating with older, more aggressive and less fecund females.

February, 2018