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1.  Prior mating success can affect allocation towards future sexual signaling in crickets 
PeerJ  2014;2:e657.
Fitness is often correlated with the expression level of a sexually selected trait. However, sexually selected traits are costly to express such that investment in their expression should be optimised to maximize their overall fitness gains. Social interactions, in the form of successful and unsuccessful matings, may offer males one type of feedback allowing them to gauge how to allocate their resources towards sexual signaling. Here we tested whether adult male black field crickets (Teleogryllus commodus) modify the extent of their calling effort (the sexually selected trait) in response to successful and unsuccessful matings with females. To examine the effect that mating interactions with females have on investment into sexual signaling, we monitored male calling effort after maturation and then provided males with a female at two points within their life, manipulating whether or not males were able to successfully mate each time. Our results demonstrate that males alter their investment towards sexual signaling in response to successful matings, but only if the experience occurs early in their life. Males that mated early decreased their calling effort sooner than males that were denied a mating. Our results demonstrate that social feedback in the form of successful and unsuccessful matings has the potential to alter the effort a male places towards sexual signaling.
PMCID: PMC4226636  PMID: 25392758
Social feedback; Sexual selection; Sexual signalling; Condition dependence; Male investment; Teleogryllus commodus
2.  The active metabolic rate predicts a male spider's proximity to females and expected fitness 
Biology Letters  2013;9(2):20121164.
Conspicuous traits, such as weaponry and body size, are often correlated with fitness. By contrast, we understand less about how inconspicuous physiological traits affect fitness. Not only is linking physiology directly to fitness a challenge, but in addition, behavioural studies most often focus on resting or basal metabolic rates, resulting in a poor understanding of how active metabolic rates affect fitness. Here we use the golden orb-web spider (Nephila plumipes), a species for which proximity to a female on the web predicts a male's paternity share, to examine the role of resting and active metabolic rates in fitness. Using a semi-natural experimental set-up, we show that males closer to a female have higher active metabolic rates than males further from females. This higher metabolic activity is paralleled by increased citrate synthase activity, suggesting greater mitochondrial densities. Our results link both higher active metabolic rates and increased citrate synthase activity with fitness. Coupled with the behaviour and life history of N. plumipes, these results provide insight into the evolution of physiological systems.
PMCID: PMC3639768  PMID: 23426914
metabolic rate; fitness; mitochondrial density; citrate synthase; active metabolic rate
3.  The juvenile social environment introduces variation in the choice and expression of sexually selected traits 
Ecology and Evolution  2012;2(5):1036-1047.
The juvenile environment provides numerous cues of the intensity of competition and the availability of mates in the near environment. As research demonstrates that the developing individuals can use these cues to alter their developmental trajectories, and therefore, adult phenotypes, we examined whether social cues available during development can affect the expression and the preference of sexually selected traits. To examine this, we used the Australian black field cricket (Telogryllus commodus), a species where condition at maturity is known to affect both male calling effort and female choice. We mimicked different social environments by rearing juveniles in two different densities crossed with three different calling environments. We demonstrate that the social environment affected female response speed but not preference, and male age-specific calling effort (especially the rate of senescence in calling effort) but not the structural/temporal parameters of calls. These results demonstrate that the social environment can introduce variation in sexually selected traits by modifying the behavioral components of male production and female choice, suggesting that the social environment may be an overlooked source of phenotypic variation. We discuss the plasticity of trait expression and preference in reference to estimations of male quality and the concept of condition dependence.
PMCID: PMC3399168  PMID: 22837847
Adult behavior; age-specific calling effort; condition dependence; developmental plasticity; juvenile environment; social environment
5.  Defining individual quality over lifetimes and selective contexts 
Individual quality has been measured as a variety of different traits and in several different contexts. However, the implications of such measurements in terms of overall fitness are less straightforward than has generally been appreciated. Here we outline some key issues in this regard that have yet to be addressed. Specifically, we consider the importance of both variation in selection on individual and multivariate suites of traits, and of context-specific plasticity in allocation strategies. We argue that an explicit life-history perspective is crucial for understanding variation in quality, as both the strength and direction of selection and an individual's response to it can vary within a breeding season. Hence, ‘quality’ is not a static characteristic that can be measured by taking longitudinal measures of single traits across a population, but rather a dynamic, multivariate suite of traits that is dependent not only on the selective context, but also on the nature and intensity of selection operating at any given time. We highlight these points by considering recent research on selection and plasticity.
PMCID: PMC3013420  PMID: 20861050
quality; life-history; plasticity; selection; quantitative genetics
6.  Multi-Modal Courtship in the Peacock Spider, Maratus volans (O.P.-Cambridge, 1874) 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(9):e25390.
The peacock spider, Maratus volans, has one of the most elaborate courtship displays in arthropods. Using regular and high-speed video segments captured in the lab, we provide detailed descriptions of complete male courtship dances. As research on jumping spiders has demonstrated that males of some species produce vibrations concurrently with visual displays, we also used laser vibrometry to uncover such elements for this species. Our recordings reveal and describe for the first time, that M. volans males use vibratory signals in addition to complex body ornaments and motion displays. The peacock spider and other closely related species are outstanding study organisms for testing hypotheses about the evolution and functional significance of complex displays, thus, this descriptive study establishes a new model system for behavioral ecology, one that certainly stands to make important contributions to the field.
PMCID: PMC3181266  PMID: 21980440
7.  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
8.  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
9.  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
10.  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

Results 1-10 (10)