Papers in the Biological Sciences


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Published in Ethology 117:2 (February 2011), pp. 102–114; doi: 10.1111/j.1439-0310.2010.01852.x Copyright © 2010 Blackwell Verlag GmbH. Used by permission.


Secondary sexual traits not only confer benefits to their bearer through increased mate acquisition, but may also have inherent costs, including the attraction of predators. Here, we examined the relationship between conspicuous secondary sexual traits and predation costs using two male morphs of Schizocosa wolf spiders: brushlegged and non-ornamented. In the field, we ran two predation experiments using artificial enclosures to directly test mortality costs of predation on the two male morphs. Using a natural predator, a larger wolf spider in the genus Hogna, we found no difference in predation on brush-legged vs. non-ornamented males. However, predation was depends on environmental conditions. More individuals were preyed upon at night (vs. during the day) and on rock litter (vs. leaf litter), but the two male morphs were preyed upon equally to each other across environmental treatments. A laboratory experiment incorporated staged interactions between a single predator (Hogna) and each male morph to examine finer details of predation events. Again, we found no differential mortality between brush-legged and non-ornamented males. However, brush-legged males were attacked sooner and were more likely to escape the attack. Our results show an association between sexual ornamentation and predation risk as well as escape behavior.