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Biol Lett. Oct 23, 2010; 6(5): 585–588.
Published online Apr 21, 2010. doi:  10.1098/rsbl.2010.0214
PMCID: PMC2936157
Males of the orb-web spider Argiope bruennichi sacrifice themselves to unrelated females
Klaas W. Welke* and Jutta M. Schneider
Zoological Institute and Museum, University of Hamburg, Martin-Luther-King-Platz 3, 20146 Hamburg, Germany
*Author for correspondence (klaaso/at/
Received March 2, 2010; Accepted March 31, 2010.
Costs of inbreeding can lead to total reproductive failure and inbreeding avoidance is, therefore, common. In classical sex roles with no paternal care, the selective pressure to avoid inbreeding is mostly on the female, which carries the higher costs. In some orb-web spiders, this situation is very different because females are polyandrous and males are monogynous or at most bigynous. Additionally, females of many entelegyne orb weavers are thought to bias paternity post-copulatorily towards a desired mate. This increases the selective pressure on males to adjust their investment in a mating with regard to the compatibility to a female.
Here, we examine whether genetic relatedness influences mating behaviour in the orb-web spider Argiope bruennichi. We mated either a sibling or a non-sibling male to a female in single copulation trials and compared copulation duration, cannibalism rate and female fecundity.
Our experiment revealed that males prolonged their copulation duration and were cannibalized more frequently when mating with a non-sibling female. Males mating with a sibling female were more likely to escape cannibalism by copulating briefly, thus presumably increasing their chances of re-mating with a more compatible female. This suggests that males can adaptively adjust their investment relating to the compatibility of a female.
Keywords: sexual cannibalism, male self-sacrifice, inbreeding avoidance, Argiope bruennichi
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