Body Size, Not Personality, Explains Male Mating Success in a Widow Spider

The role of personality in sexual selection has mostly been investigated on vertebrate species, in which males provide direct benefits to females or offspring. Less is known about the links between behavioral variation and sexual selection in species where males provide only sperm, while the advantages of female-choice are due to male genes that increase offspring fitness. Our study is centered on a sexually-size dimorphic spider species, the Mediterranean black widow, which is ideal to investigate how sexual selection shapes behavior. In this species, a male-biased operational sex-ratio leads to male-male competition, and aggressive and/or large males should have a selective advantage. Females are selected for fecundity, which should correlate with selection for higher voraciousness. Theory predicts that voracity “spills-over” into the mating context, such that voracity towards prey correlates with voracity towards mates. We tested how body size and two behaviors, male aggression toward rivals and female voracity toward prey, influence mating behavior, mating success, and sexual cannibalism. We show that individual variation in aggression does not play a direct role in the mating behavior of this species. Instead, body size affects male mating success and the occurrence of sexual cannibalism in females.


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