Mate guarding, competition and variation in size in male orb-web spiders, Metellina segmentata: A field experiment

John Prenter*, Robert W. Elwood, W. Ian Montgomery

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    20 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    In the common orb-web spider Metellina segmentata, males are more powerfully built with longer legs, although females are heavier because of their egg load. Males guard females before attempting to mate, and there is considerable male-male competition because of the male-biased operational sex ratio. We used a field removal experiment to examine (1) seasonal changes in the average morphology of guarding males and (2) whether there is a pool of small males that is excluded from the webs of females. Morphological measures were subjected to a principal components analysis and changes in PC scores were examined for seasonal effects and the effects of previous removal of males. The size of guarding males (PC1) increased over the season, suggesting that smaller males were increasingly excluded from webs, but the condition of guarding males (PC2) decreased, indicating that energy reserves are depleted because the males gain little access to food during the reproductive season. When guarding males were removed, smaller males were able to take up residence. Our results show that large males have a clear advantage in monopolizing females. We discuss the manner in which selection acts to maintain large male size in this spider.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1053-1058
    Number of pages6
    JournalAnimal Behaviour
    Volume66
    Issue number6
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2003

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