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Factors influencing sexual cannibalism and its benefit to fecundity and offspring survival in the wolf spider Pardosa pseudoannulata (Araneae: Lycosidae)

Lingbing Wu, Huaping Zhang, Ting He, Zeliang Liu, Yu Peng
Behavioral ecology and sociobiology 2013 v.67 no.2 pp. 205-212
Pardosa, cannibalism, copulation, dimorphism, eggs, fecundity, hunger, males, progeny, virgin females, China
Sexual cannibalism is hypothesized to have evolved as a way to obtain a high-quality meal, as an extreme mate choice or as a consequence of female aggressive spillover. Here, we examined underlying factors likely to influence sexual cannibalism in the wolf spider Pardosa pseudoannulata (Bösenberg & Strand, 1906) from China, including mating status, female egg-laid status, female hunger level, female adult age and mate size dimorphism. The results showed that about 10 % of P. pseudoannulata virgin females cannibalized the approaching males before mating and that 28 % of P. pseudoannulata virgin females immediately cannibalized the males after mating. No incidents of sexual cannibalism during copulation were observed. Before mating, previously mated females and starved females tended to engage in significantly higher rates of attacks compared to virgin and well-fed females. Females that had laid egg sacs tended to engage in a significantly higher rate of attacks and sexual cannibalism than virgin females before mating. Regardless of pre- or post-mating, there was a strong positive relationship between mate size dimorphism and the occurrence of sexual cannibalism. We also tested the effects of sexual cannibalism on the fecundity of cannibalistic females and the survival of their offspring. Our results indicated that sexual cannibalism affected positively the offspring survival of cannibalistic females, but not fecundity. Our findings support the hypothesis that sexual cannibalism has evolved as an adaptive component of female foraging strategy and that it benefits offspring survival as a result of paternal investment.