Communication is important in any relationship, but for spiders, it can be a matter of life or death.
After all, a male spider needs to convince potentially cannibalistic females that he is a suitable mate and not a meal. And new research from the University of Cincinnati shows that male wolf spiders are "leaving" little to chance when it comes to increasing their opportunities to successfully mate.
To improve the chances of the right message getting across, male Schizocosa ocreata wolf spiders, commonly found in the eastern United States and Canada, adjust the modes of their signaling (vibrations vs. visual cues) depending on the habitat (leaves, soil, rock, wood) on which they find themselves.
That's the finding of new research published in the February 2011 issue of the journal, "Animal Behavior." The research was carried out by George Uetz, UC professor of biology, and former UC doctoral student Shira Gordon, now a research fellow at the University of Strathclyde, Scotland.
LESSON LEARNED: ADAPTABILITY OF WOLF SPIDERS
In a series of studies by Gordon and Uetz, male wolf spiders were placed within laboratory containers on natural-habitat substrates including soil, rock, wood and leaf litter for equal amounts of time. It was found that males signaling via vibrations on leaf litter were more than twice as successful in inducing females to mate as were males signaling via vibrations on other substrates. Males signaling via vibrations on leaf litter successfully attracted a mate over 85 percent of the time. Males sending mating cues while positioned on other environmental surfaces successfully attracted a mate less than 30 percent of the time.
When the spiders were given a choice of occupying any of the four substrate types, males and females visited all four but remained twice as long on leaf litter vs. the other substrates. They thus increased their opportunities for successful mating due to th
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University of Cincinnati