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The effects of social experience with varying male availability on female mate preferences in a wolf spider

Stoffer, Brent, Uetz, George W.
Behavioral ecology and sociobiology 2015 v.69 no.6 pp. 927-937
Lycosidae, adulthood, adults, courtship, females, invertebrates, legs, males, sex ratio
While female preferences may vary depending on population-level differences in density or sex ratio, factors affecting mate choice may act at the individual level, i.e., females may encounter males with varying frequency or encounter multiple males simultaneously. The “socially cued anticipatory plasticity” hypothesis suggests that females may bias mate preferences based on prior experience. In the wolf spider, Schizocosa ocreata, males typically mature before females, allowing females to experience male courtship before maturation. Using video playback, we simulated differences in the encounter rate and the number of males simultaneously encountered to examine effects on female preference for a secondary sexual character (foreleg tufts). Penultimate females were exposed to video playback of zero, one, or three courting males either once every 2 days (low encounter rate) or twice per day (high encounter rate). At adulthood (week 2 post-maturity), females were presented video playback of courting males with small or large tufts to test for preferences in no-choice and two-choice designs. In two-choice (but not no-choice) presentations, female receptivity varied significantly with treatment. Females exposed to three males simultaneously at a higher encounter rate during their penultimate stage exhibited greater receptivity to large-tufted than small-tufted males as adults. Subsequent analyses revealed that females were more selective as adults if they encountered cumulatively more males during their penultimate stage, which was a repeatable trend when re-testing some individuals 3 weeks later. This study adds to the growing literature that demonstrates that invertebrates exhibit plasticity in mating preferences depending on social experience.