Papers in the Biological Sciences


Date of this Version



Published in Behavioral Ecology 20:4 (2009), pp. 891–900; doi: 10.1093/beheco/arp078 Copyright © 2009 Dustin J. Wilgers, Amy C. Nicholas, David H. Reed, Gail E. Stratton, and Eileen A. Hebets. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the International Society for Behavioral Ecology. Used by permission.


Condition-dependent male mating tactics often involve high-quality males capitalizing on the outcome of intersexual selection, whereas low-quality males use behaviors that circumvent female choice to achieve copulation. In the wolf spider Rabidosa punctulata, males display 2 distinct mating tactics: 1) “courtship”—consisting of visual and seismic components or 2) “direct mount”—consisting of males grappling/holding females until they assume a copulatory posture. We tested for condition-dependent tactic expression using both field-collected individuals (representing natural variation in body mass and condition) and individuals whose diet we manipulated in the laboratory (representing extreme divergences in body size and condition). Across both natural and diet manipulated individuals, mating tactic was found to be condition dependent; however, the pattern of tactic expression was initially unexpected. Larger males with better body condition primarily adopted a direct mount tactic, whereas smaller males with poorer body condition primarily utilized courtship. Across all males, copulation success tended to be greatest for the direct mount tactic. We suggest that small, poor condition males predominantly utilize the less-successful mating tactic (courtship) in part due to their increased susceptibility to female cannibalism when attempting a direct mount.

Includes Supplemental Video of mating interaction.

Hebets BE 2009 Condition dependent VIDEO.wmv (16654 kB)
Staged mating interaction in Rabidosa punctulata