Papers in the Biological Sciences


Date of this Version



Current Zoology 61 (6): 1015–1035, 2015


© 2015 Current Zoology. Used by permission.


Genetic, life history, and environmental factors dictate patterns of variation in sexual traits within and across populations, and thus the action and outcome of sexual selection. This study explores patterns of inheritance, diet, age, and mate-choice copying on the expression of male sexual signals and associated female mate choice in a phenotypically diverse group of Schizocosa wolf spiders. Focal spiders exhibit one of two male phenotypes: ‘ornamented’ males possess large black brushes on their forelegs, and ‘non-ornamented’ males possess no brushes. Using a quantitative genetics breeding design in a mixed population of ornamented/non-ornamented males, we found a strong genetic basis to male phenotype and female choice. We also found that some ornamented males produced some sons with large brushes and others with barely visible brushes. Results of diet manipulations and behavioral mating trials showed no influence of diet on male phenotype or female mate choice. Age post maturation, however, influenced mate choice, with younger females being more likely to mate with ornamented males. A mate-choice copying experiment found that, following observations of another female’s mate choice/copulation, virgin mature females tended to match the mate choice (ornamented vs. non-ornamented males) of the females they observed. Finally, analyses of genetic variation across phenotypically pure (only one male phenotype present) vs. mixed (both phenotypes present) populations revealed genetic distinction between phenotypes in phenotypically-pure populations, but no distinction in phenotypically-mixed populations. The difference in patterns of genetic differentiation and mating across geographic locations suggests a complex network of factors contributing to the outcome of sexual selection.