Papers in the Biological Sciences


Date of this Version



Current Zoology 57 (2): 175−186, 2011
Used by permission.


Effective signal transmission is essential for communication. In environments where signal transmission is highly variable, signalers may utilize complex signals, which incorporate multiple components and modalities, to maintain effective communication. Male Rabidosa rabida wolf spiders produce complex courtship signals, consisting of both visual and seismic components. We test the hypothesis that the complex signaling of R. rabida contributes to male reproductive success in variable signaling environments. We first examine the condition-dependence of foreleg ornamentation (a presumed visual signal) and seismic signal components and find that both may provide potentially redundant information on foraging history. Next, we assessed reproductive success across manipulated signaling environments that varied in the effectiveness of visual and/or seismic signal transmission. In environments where only one signal could be successfully transmitted (e.g., visual or seismic), pairs were still able to successfully copulate. Additionally, we found that males altered their courtship display depending on the current signaling environment. Specifically, males reduced their use of a visual display component in signaling environments where visual signal transmission was ablated. Incorporating signals in multiple modalities not only enables R. rabida males to maintain copulation success across variable signaling environments, but it also enables males to adjust their composite courtship display to current signaling conditions.