Courtship raises male fertilization success through post-mating sexual selection in a spider.

September 7, 2009

Courtship is well known for its positive effects on mating success. However, in polyandrous species, sexual selection continues to operate after copulation. Cryptic female choice is expected under unpredictable mating rates in combination with sequential mate encounters. However, there are very few accounts of the effects of courtship on cryptic female choice, and the available evidence is often correlative.

Mature Argiope bruennichi females are always receptive and never attack or reject males before mating, although sexual cannibalism after mating occurs regularly. Still, males usually perform an energetic vibratory display prior to copulation. We tested the hypothesis that beneficial effects of courtship arise cryptically, during or after mating, resulting in increased paternity success under polyandry. Manipulating courtship duration experimentally, we found that males that mated without display had a reduced paternity share even though no differences in post-copulatory cannibalism or copulation duration were detected. This suggests that the paternity advantage associated with courtship arose through female-mediated processes after intromission, meeting the definition of cryptic female choice.

Jutta M Schneider and Kristiani Lesmono

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