Experience matters The effects of the social environment on mate choice plasticity in a wolf spider

Meeting Abstract

19.3  Sunday, Jan. 4 10:45  Experience matters: The effects of the social environment on mate choice plasticity in a wolf spider STOFFER, B*; UETZ, G W; University of Cincinnati; University of Cincinnati stoffebm@mail.uc.edu

Females may be able to assess the availability or quality of males in the population prior to choosing a mate and adjust their preferences. For example, if males are abundant, of high quality, or the sex ratio is male-biased, females may become more selective. We tested whether female Schizocosa ocreata, the brush-legged wolf spider, demonstrated mate choice plasticity by using video and/or vibratory playback to simulate conditions in their social environment. First, we manipulated the perceived availability of males in order to tease apart whether the number of males simultaneously encountered or the encounter rate best predicted female selectivity. Instead, the total number of males that females saw as juveniles best predicted female selectivity for tuft size (a secondary sexual character). Second, females were presented with males of varying quality (small tufts, average tufts, or large tufts) in order to test the effects of visual imprinting. Females imprinted upon males of a particular quality, even demonstrating preferences towards low-quality males with small tufts if they saw only these males as juveniles. Finally, we tested whether females would demonstrate stronger preferences towards unimodal signals (vibratory or visual) depending on different sensory experiences with courting male signals (vibratory only, visual only, or both). Females were more receptive towards the unimodal signal that they experienced as juveniles. However, all females preferred multimodal signals, regardless of previous sensory experience. Thus, an adult’s mating decision can clearly be impacted by a variety of conditions in the individual’s social environment.

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