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Another Origin of Extreme Sexual Size Dimorphism Discovered in Araneid Spiders

Cyphalonotus is a poorly studied, Old World araneid spider genus whose phylogenetic proximity remains unknown due to the paucity of morphological and molecular data. In this study, we test the phylogenetic placement and the taxonomic composition of Cyphalonotus and place the male and female size variation of Cyphalonotus and related genera in an evolutionary context. Our collection and field observations from Taiwan and China facilitate description of a new and a known species, and original sequence data enable species delimitation, and phylogenetic analyses. The phylogenetic results reject all four classification hypotheses from the literature, and instead recover a well-supported clade Cyphalonotus + Poltys. We review the male and female size variation in Cyphalonotus, Poltys, and related genera. These data reveal that all known species of Poltys are extremely sexually size dimorphic (eSSD = females over twice the male size) reaching values exceeding 10-fold differences, while Cyphalonotus and other genera in their phylogenetic proximity are relatively sexually monomorphic (SSD < 2.0). This confirms an independent origin of eSSD in Poltys, one of multiple convergent evolutionary outcomes in orbweb spiders.

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