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Mating in a variable world: The implications of environmental variation for male and female mating behavior
Environmental variability likely plays a major role in the function and evolution of complex mating behaviors, as environmental effects can have significant impacts on both the form and function of male mating displays and female mate choice behavior. Here, I examine the role of variability in the nutritional history of males, the light environment at the time of signaling, and the context in which the signaling takes place on both the form of the male display and the female’s mate choice behavior. I assessed the effect of variability in food intake on male mating behavior in the wolf spider Schizocosa floridana by separately varying the amount of food available to males as juveniles and adults. I found that while juvenile diet affected leg pigmentation (a putative ornament), courtship rate (leg taps/minute) was unaffected by diet. Additionally, only courtship rate predicted copulation success, though this effect was modulated by diet; courtship rate did not predict copulation success for males in the variable juvenile high-diet/adult low-diet treatment. I repeated this experimental design with the related spider Schizocosa stridulans. Results were similar, except for the fact that courtship rate did not predict copulation success for males in either variable-diet treatment. Together, these studies suggest that variability in nutrient intake can either impede the ability of the female to assess the male’s courtship, or can render courtship an unreliable signal of male quality. I then examined the complex display of male S. floridana more closely, testing how display structure changed across light environments and social contexts. I found that the relationships between acoustic and morphological display components shifted considerably across environments and contexts, as did the roles those components played in mate attraction. Notably, I found evidence that some display components may play a role in long-distance mate attraction, whereas others may be more important in the close presence of a female. Together, my findings suggest that male display form and female assessment can be significantly impacted by the environment and context in which the signals are produced, with significant fitness implications for both sexes.
Biology|Evolution and Development
Rosenthal, Malcolm F, "Mating in a variable world: The implications of environmental variation for male and female mating behavior" (2015). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3717111.