Papers in the Biological Sciences


Date of this Version



Published in Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews 46:4 (October 2014), pp. 509–518; doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2014.07.018 (Issue on “Beyond Sexual Selection: The evolution of sex differences from brain to behavior”)


Copyright © 2014 Elsevier, Inc. Used by permission.


Spiders are highly efficient predators in possession of exquisite sensory capacities for ambushing prey, combined with machinery for launching rapid and determined attacks. As a consequence, any sexually motivated approach carries a risk of ending up as prey rather than as a mate. Sexual selection has shaped courtship to effectively communicate the presence, identity, motivation and/or quality of potential mates, which help ameliorate these risks. Spiders communicate this information via several sensory channels, including mechanical (e.g. vibrational), visual and/or chemical, with examples of multimodal signaling beginning to emerge in the literature. The diverse environments that spiders inhabit have further shaped courtship content and form. While our understanding of spider neurobiology remains in its infancy, recent studies are highlighting the unique and considerable capacities of spiders to process and respond to complex sexual signals. As a result, the dangerous mating systems of spiders are providing important insights into how ecology shapes the evolution of communication systems, with future work offering the potential to link this complex communication with its neural processes.