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1.  Examination of prior contest experience and the retention of winner and loser effects 
Behavioral Ecology  2010;21(2):404-409.
In many animal taxa, prior contest experience affects future performance such that winning increases the chances of winning in the future (winner effect) and losing increases the chances of losing in the future (loser effect). It is, however, not clear whether this pattern typically arises from experience effects on actual or perceived fighting ability (or both). In this study, we looked at winner and loser effects in the jumping spider Phidippus clarus. We assigned winning or losing experience to spiders and tested them against opponents of similar fighting ability in subsequent contests at 1-, 2-, 5-, and 24-h intervals. We examined the strength of winner and loser effects, how long effects persist, as well as how experience affected perceived and actual fighting ability. Our results demonstrate that winner and loser effects are of approximately the same magnitude, although loser effects last longer than winner effects. Our results also demonstrate that previous experience alters actual fighting ability because both the assessment and escalation periods were affected by experience. We suggest that the retention time of experience effects depends on expected encounter rates as well as other behavioral and ecological factors. In systems with short breeding seasons and/or rapidly fluctuating populations, context-dependent retention of experience effects may allow males to track their status relative to the fluctuating fighting ability of local competitors without paying the costs necessary to recall or assess individual competitors.
PMCID: PMC2821427  PMID: 22476369
contest experience; fighting ability; male–male competition; perceived RHP; Phidippus clarus; winner and loser effect
2.  Body condition but not dietary restriction prolongs lifespan in a semelparous capital breeder 
Biology Letters  2009;5(5):636-638.
Effects of diet on longevity are complex because acquired resources are shared among growth, reproduction and somatic maintenance. We simplify these axes by examining how dietary restriction and competitive contexts affect longevity using semelparous males of the Australian redback spider (Latrodectus hasselti). Plastic development of L. hasselti males results in trade-offs of body condition against faster development if females are present, facilitating scramble competition. In the absence of females, males develop slowly as high body condition adults, and are better equipped for mate searching. Here we focus on effects of diet and competitive context on body condition and longevity. Although male survival depended on body condition and exercise, contrary to studies in a wide range of taxa, dietary restriction did not increase longevity. However, there was an interactive effect of diet and competitive context on lifespan, because high-diet males reared in the absence of females lived longer than males reared in the presence of females. Thus males near females pay a survival cost of developing rapidly. This shows that life-history trade-offs affected by competitive context can impose longevity costs independent of the direct energy expenditure of searching, courtship, competition or reproduction.
PMCID: PMC2781961  PMID: 19515652
dietary restriction; life-history trade-offs; longevity; developmental plasticity; Latrodectus hasselti
3.  Experience affects the outcome of agonistic contests without affecting the selective advantage of size 
Animal behaviour  2009;77(6):1533-1538.
In the field, phenotypic determinants of competitive success are not always absolute. For example, contest experience may alter future competitive performance. As future contests are not determined solely on phenotypic attributes, prior experience could also potentially alter phenotype–fitness associations. In this study, we examined the influence of single and multiple experiences on contest outcomes in the jumping spider Phidippus clarus. We also examined whether phenotype–fitness associations altered as individuals gained more experience. Using both size-matched contests and a tournament design, we found that both winning and losing experience affected future contest success; males with prior winning experience were more likely to win subsequent contests. Although experience was a significant determinant of success in future contests, male weight was approximately 1.3 times more important than experience in predicting contest outcomes. Despite the importance of experience in determining contest outcomes, patterns of selection did not change between rounds. Overall, our results show that experience can be an important determinant in contest outcomes, even in short-lived invertebrates, and that experience alone is unlikely to alter phenotype–fitness associations.
PMCID: PMC2699276  PMID: 20161296
jumping spider; multiple competition; Phidippus clarus; previous experience; selection gradient; tournament design
4.  Assessment during aggressive contests between male jumping spiders 
Animal behaviour  2008;76(3):901-910.
Assessment strategies are an important component in game theoretical models of contests. Strategies can be either based on one’s own abilities (self assessment) or on the relative abilities of two opponents (mutual assessment). Using statistical methodology that allows discrimination between assessment types, we examined contests in the jumping spider Phiddipus clarus. In this species, aggressive interactions can be divided into ‘pre-contact’ and ‘contact’ phases. Pre-contact phases consist of bouts of visual and vibratory signaling. Contact phases follow where males physically contact each other (leg fencing). Both weight and vibratory signaling differences predicted winners with heavier and more actively signaling males winning more contests. Vibratory behaviour predicted pre-contact phase duration, with higher signaling rates and larger differences between contestants leading to longer pre-contact interaction times. Contact phase duration was predicted most strongly by the weight of losing males relative to that of winning males, suggesting that P. clarus males use self-assessment in determining contest duration. While a self-assessment strategy was supported, our data suggest a secondary role for mutual assessment (“partial mutual assessment”). After initial contest bouts, male competitors changed their behaviour. Pre-contact and contact phase durations were reduced while vibratory signaling behaviour in winners was unchanged. In addition, only vibratory signaling differences predicted winners in subsequent bouts suggesting a role of experience in determining contest outcomes. We suggest that the rules and assessment strategies males use can change depending on experience and that assessment strategies are likely a continuum between self- and mutual assessment.
PMCID: PMC2598435  PMID: 19727331
5.  Novel male trait prolongs survival in suicidal mating 
Biology Letters  2005;1(3):276-279.
Male redback spiders (Latrodectus hasselti) maximize paternity if they copulate twice with their cannibalistic mate. Facilitating cannibalistic attack during their first copulation yields paternity benefits. However, females have paired sperm-storage organs inseminated during two separate copulations, so males that succumb to partial cannibalism during the first copulation lose at least 50% of their paternity to rivals. In this paper, we describe a novel male trait—an abdominal constriction that appears during courtship—that allows males to survive and mate with females for a second time, despite the substantial cannibalistic damage inflicted during the first copulation. Constricted males that were wounded to simulate early cannibalism had higher endurance, greater survivorship, longer subsequent courtship and higher mating success than wounded males that were not constricted. Constriction was not found in a non-sacrificial congener that rarely survived simulated cannibalism, and the protective effect of constriction in redbacks was specific to the type of damage inflicted by females during the first copulation. Thus, the abdominal constriction allows males to overcome the potential fitness limit imposed by their own suicidal strategy—paradoxically, by prolonging survival across two cannibalistic copulations.
PMCID: PMC1617149  PMID: 17148186
sexual cannibalism; redback spider; sexual selection; courtship; male mating success; evolutionary conflict
6.  Multiple sperm storage organs facilitate female control of paternity 
It has been proposed that multiple sperm storage organs (spermathecae) could allow polyandrous females to control paternity. There is little conclusive evidence for this since insemination of individual spermathecae is generally not experimentally manipulable. Here, we examined sperm use patterns in the Australian redback spider (Latrodectus hasselti), which has paired, independent spermathecae. We assessed paternity when two rivals were forced to inseminate a single storage organ or opposite storage organs. When males inseminated a single spermatheca, mean paternity of the female's first mate was 79.8% (median 89.4%), and 38% of first mates achieved 100% paternity. In contrast, when males inseminated opposite organs, the mean paternity of the first mate was 49.3% (median 49.9%), only 10% of males achieved complete precedence, and paternity was normally distributed, suggesting sperm mixing. Males responded to this difference by avoiding previously inseminated female reproductive tracts. Complete sperm precedence can only be achieved if females permit males to copulate with both reproductive tracts. Females often cannibalize smaller males during their first copulation, thus limiting their paternity to 50%. These data show that multiple sperm storage organs can increase female control of paternity.
PMCID: PMC1559814  PMID: 16024375
paternity; sperm precedence; insemination pattern; cryptic female choice; multiple sperm storage organs; redback spiders

Results 1-6 (6)