Animals are commonly expected to assess each other during contests in order to economically identify relative status. Escalated or long contests are expected to arise mainly when rivals have difficulty discriminating small differences. Results of the present study of male-male contests in Plexippus paykulli, a jumping spider (Salticidae) with acute vision, are not in accord with this widely held view. Despite the typical finding that size-advantaged rivals are more likely to win contests and that this tendency increases with size disparity, contest dynamics suggest that these tendencies are achieved in the absence of direct size assessment. In contests between different-sized spiders, maximum escalation and overall duration were predicted by the absolute size of the size-disadvantaged spider (usually the loser) rather than the size difference between the rivals. This result suggests that spiders base decisions of persistence on their own size, such that size-disadvantaged rivals usually reach their limits first, and then retreat. This interpretation is further supported by findings that maximum escalation and total duration were both positively related to size in contests between size-matched spiders. Spiders were more likely to win if they oriented and displayed first, and longer, more escalated, contests ensued if the size-disadvantaged spider was the first to orient and display. Proximity of rivals at contest outset also influenced contest dynamics, but not outcome.
- Plexippus paykulli