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Pre-copulatory sexual cannibalism in virgin wolf spiders

Pre-copulatory sexual cannibalism (Pre-SC), where females attack and consume courting males, is considered an extreme case of sexual conflict. Different ultimate causes underlying this phenomenon have been proposed for more than a century and still remain unclear. The main objective of this research was to test the ‘adaptive foraging hypothesis’ in females of the non-burrowing wolf spider Lycosa fasciiventris. Females from the poor diet treatment and females that were offered a mate shortly after reaching maturity more likely engaged in Pre-SC than females from the rich diet treatment and females that were deprived of males for longer periods. While females more likely cannibalized courting males of relatively or absolutely smaller body size, female absolute body size did not predict Pre-SC. Thus, our results support the ‘adaptive foraging hypothesis’, the ‘mate choice hypothesis’ and the ‘sexual size dimorphism hypothesis’ and failed to find support for one of the predictions of the ‘aggressive spillover hypothesis’.

Photo: EfemeDos via Flickr.

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