Female praying mantids use sexual cannibalism as a foraging strategy to increase fecundity

Katherine L. Barry, Gregory I. Holwell, Marie E. Herberstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

80 Citations (Scopus)


Several hypotheses have been proposed to explain the evolution of sexual cannibalism. The foraging strategy hypothesis states that sexual cannibalism may arise as an adaptive foraging strategy, providing females with the nutrients to increase future fecundity. Yet, very few studies have found that nourishment through cannibalism translates into increased fecundity. One explanation for this may be that most of these investigations have concentrated on sexually dimorphic spider species with tiny males that do not significantly increase female body mass on consumption. The current study focuses on the praying mantid, Pseudomantis albofimbriata, a moderately size dimorphic species with relatively large males. Cannibalistic females of such species may be more likely to gain nutritional benefits from male consumption, which translate into increased fecundity. Here, cannibalistic females substantially improved their body condition and subsequently produced heavier egg cases than their noncannibalistic counterparts. An additional prediction of the foraging strategy hypothesis is that sexual cannibalism will increase with decreasing female condition. We found that the prevalence of sexual cannibalism in this system was indeed affected by female body condition; females in poor condition were more likely to consume their potential mates than females in good condition. Additional analysis of the data refuted the relevance of each of the remaining hypotheses for this species, providing clear evidence for the foraging strategy hypothesis as an explanation for the maintenance of sexual cannibalism in this species.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)710-715
Number of pages6
JournalBehavioral Ecology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2008


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