Papers in the Biological Sciences


Date of this Version

November 2006


Published in Ethology 112:11 (November 2006), pp. 1062–1070; doi 10.1111/j.1439-0310.2006.01274.x Copyright © 2006 Eileen A. Hebets, K. Cuasay, and P. K. Rivlin; journal compilation © 2006 Blackwell Verlag, Berlin. Used by permission.


The courtship behavior of male Schizocosa uetzi wolf spiders incorporates both visual and seismic signals into a multimodal display. These two signals have been shown to interact in such a manner that the seismic signal alters a female’s response to the visual signal, leading to a putative increased importance of visual signaling in the presence of a seismic signal. Experiments leading to this attention-focusing hypothesis relied in part on the video playback technique, eliciting the question of its significance under more biologically relevant conditions. Here, we directly examine female mate choice of males with differing visual signals (foreleg pigmentation) both in the presence and absence of a seismic courtship signal. We first quantified the natural variation of male foreleg pigmentation within a population of S. uetzi. The proportion of the tibia covered in pigmentation was found to be positively correlated with male weight, suggesting that this signal may convey reliable information about male size. Visual signals of live males were then manipulated into two treatments: black and brown male foreleg tibias, representing the extreme ends of the natural variation found. The seismic signaling environment was also manipulated into two treatments: seismic signal present and absent. Mating frequency was higher in the presence of a seismic signal than in its absence, but there was no interaction between the seismic and visual signaling treatments. Females mated with black and brown males equally whether a seismic signal was present or absent. This study suggests that inexperienced females do not distinguish between males of different manipulated foreleg pigmentations in mate-choice decisions, even when in the presence of a seismic courtship signal.