Consequences of complex signaling: Predator detection of multimodal cues

J. Andrew Roberts*, Phillip W. Taylor, George W. Uetz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

95 Citations (Scopus)


Animals often evolve complex signals to enhance their detectability by intended receivers. But signals that are more detectable by intended receivers may also be more likely to be intercepted by others, including predators. Courtship signaling in male Schizocosa ocreata wolf spiders (Lycosidae) includes morphological traits (prominent foreleg tufts) and active behaviors that together produce a complex signal with simultaneous broadcast of visual and seismic components. Females respond more readily to males with large tufts and are more likely to respond when multiple modalities (visual and seismic) are present in a complex signal. These spiders cooccur with active predators that may intercept these conspicuous courtship signals and use them as hunting cues. We used video/seismic playback to experimentally isolate and manipulate aspects of the complex signal produced by male S. ocreata. We found that increasing the size of a visual signal (male tufts) and increasing the complexity of the courtship signal by adding a second modality (visual plus seismic versus visual alone) increased the speed with which a common predator, the jumping spider Phidippus clarus (Salticidae), responded to playbacks of courting male S. ocreata. These results indicate that the benefits of increased signaling efficacy of large visual signaling ornaments and complex, multimodal signaling may be countered by increased predation risks.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)236-240
Number of pages5
JournalBehavioral Ecology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2007

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