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Title

Sexual Cannibalism: High Incidence in a Natural Population with Benefits to Females

AuthorsRabaneda, Rubén; Rodríguez-Gironés, Miguel Ángel ; Aguado, Sara; Fernández Montraveta, Carmen; Mas, Eva de ; Wise, David H.; Moya-Laraño, Jordi
KeywordsSexual cannibalism
Mediterranean tarantula
Lycosa tarantula
Reproduction
Evolution
Ecology
Issue Date22-Oct-2008
PublisherPublic Library of Science
CitationPLoS ONE 3(10): e3484
Abstract[Background] Sexual cannibalism may be a form of extreme sexual conflict in which females benefit more from feeding on males than mating with them, and males avoid aggressive, cannibalistic females in order to increase net fitness. A thorough understanding of the adaptive significance of sexual cannibalism is hindered by our ignorance of its prevalence in nature. Furthermore, there are serious doubts about the food value of males, probably because most studies that attempt to document benefits of sexual cannibalism to the female have been conducted in the laboratory with non-natural alternative prey. Thus, to understand more fully the ecology and evolution of sexual cannibalism, field experiments are needed to document the prevalence of sexual cannibalism and its benefits to females.
[Methodology/Principal Findings] We conducted field experiments with the Mediterranean tarantula (Lycosa tarantula), a burrowing wolf spider, to address these issues. At natural rates of encounter with males, approximately a third of L. tarantula females cannibalized the male. The rate of sexual cannibalism increased with male availability, and females were more likely to kill and consume an approaching male if they had previously mated with another male. We show that females benefit from feeding on a male by breeding earlier, producing 30% more offspring per egg sac, and producing progeny of higher body condition. Offspring of sexually cannibalistic females dispersed earlier and were larger later in the season than spiderlings of non-cannibalistic females.
[Conclusions/Significance] In nature a substantial fraction of female L. tarantula kill and consume approaching males instead of mating with them. This behaviour is more likely to occur if the female has mated previously. Cannibalistic females have higher rates of reproduction, and produce higher-quality offspring, than non-cannibalistic females. Our findings further suggest that female L. tarantula are nutrient-limited in nature and that males are high-quality prey. The results of these field experiments support the hypothesis that sexual cannibalism is adaptive to females.
Description10 pages, 3 figures.
Publisher version (URL)http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0003484
URIhttp://hdl.handle.net/10261/7952
DOIhttp://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0003484
ISSN1932-6203 (Online)
Appears in Collections:(EEZA) Artículos
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