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Evidence that web reduction by western black widow males functions in sexual communication

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 August 2012


A well-accepted function of courtship in sexually dimorphic and cannibalistic spiders is suppression of female predatory responses. We quantitatively analysed courtship in the western black widow, Latrodectus hesperus Chamberlin and Ivie (Araneae: Theridiidae), to determine the behavioural elements of the males’ courtship that are correlated with mating success and/or the females’ responses. The 58% of males that engaged in web reduction elicited fewer aggressive responses from females and induced female quiescence more quickly than did males not exhibiting web reduction behaviour. Our data suggest that web reduction by male L. hesperus functions in sexual communication, a context not previously explored.


Chez les araignées qui présentent un dimorphisme et un cannibalisme sexuels, une fonction reconnue du comportement de cour est la suppression de la réponse de prédation de la femelle. Nous avons analysé quantitativement le comportement de cour chez la veuve noire de l'ouest, Latrodectus hesperus Chamberlin et Ivie (Araneae: Theridiidae), afin de déterminer les éléments du comportement de cour des mâles qui sont corrélés avec leur succès de reproduction et/ou les réponses de la femelle. 58% des mâles se sont consacrés à la réduction de la toile; ils ont provoqué moins de réponses agressives de la part des femelles, et ont induit plus rapidement un état de transe chez la femelle, que les mâles qui ne se sont pas livrés à ce comportement de réduction de la toile. Nos données suggèrent que la réduction de la toile par les mâles L. hesperus joue un rôle dans la communication entre mâles et femelles, un contexte qui n'a pas été exploré jusqu’à présent.

Original Article
Copyright © Entomological Society of Canada 2012

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