The sterile male technique is a common method to assign paternity, widely adopted due to its relative simplicity and low cost. Male sterility is induced by exposure to sub lethal doses of chemosterilants or irradiation, the dosage of which has to be calibrated for every species to provide successful male sterilisation, without affecting male physiology and behaviour. While the physiological effects of sterilisation are usually assessed for each study, the behavioural ones are rarely analysed in detail. Using the orb web spider Argiope keyserlingi as a model we first tested (1) the validity of the thread assay, which simulates male courtship behaviour in a standardised context, as a proxy representing courtship on a female web. We then investigated (2) the effectiveness of male sterilisation via irradiation and (3) its consequences on male courtship behaviour. Our results validate the thread assay and the sterile male technique as legitimate tools for the study of male courtship behaviour and fertilisation success. We show that these techniques are time and cost effective and reduce undesirable variation, thereby creating opportunities to study and understand the mechanisms underlying sexual selection.
- Reproductive behaviour
- Argiope keyserlingi