Environmental Studies Program


Date of this Version

Spring 2010


ABSTRACT: As a secondary sexual trait that can increase reproductive success, ornamentation is believed to be costly for organisms to acquire and possess. This study investigates possible costs of ornamentation on wolf spider foraging by comparing foraging abilities of two male forms that differ in ornamentation upon maturation. The two male forms, found syntopically in a mixed population in Mississippi, USA, resemble two sibling species: Schizocosa ocreata, in which males develop large black brushes on their forelegs upon maturation, and Schizocosa rovneri, in which males lack ornamentation following maturation. Individuals of both forms participated in foraging trials as penultimates (juveniles) and as matures. Analyses were conducted to compare behaviors and determine changes in foraging abilities between male forms (non-ornamented vs. brush-legged) and between age groups (penultimate vs. mature). Most foraging behaviors of the two male forms during immaturity were similar with the exception that brush-legged males attacked more frequently than non-ornamented males. Brush-legged males attacked less, spent more time moving, and improved capture abilities as matures, while non-ornamented males retained similar trends for these behaviors with age. Additionally, while capture abilities improved with age among brush-legged males, killing abilities remained constant. This disparity was due to increased escapes made by captured prey items, possibly due to hindrances caused by brush presence preventing secure holds onto crickets. In summary, differences in foraging exist between brush-legged and non-ornamented males prior to sexual maturation, and the development of/presence of brushes appears to influence adult male foraging efficiency.