Manual Wrapped in Silk

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  4. Silk-wrapped prey items are a girl’s best friend

We estimated weather a gift is worthless in terms of the extent to which males consumed the prey prior to silk wrapping. We therefore calculated prey weight loss as the differences in weight between prey body mass before the trial and the content of the nuptial gift after the trial calculated as gift weight—silk weight. To understand whether silk investment depends on the gift-giving strategy worthlessness of the gift and is affected by body resources we used ANCOVA, testing for the effect of feeding treatment LF and HF and prey weight loss on silk amounts covering gifts.

Linear regression was used to assess whether the total duration of silk wrapping behaviour related to the amount of silk deposited by males. We also estimated the costs of gift production for males by measuring male body mass loss and used Linear Regression to assess whether such cost is related to cheating prey weight loss. Finally, for gifts produced overnight without direct observations we tested differences in mean silk amount between LF and HF males using t -test.

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Appropriate data transformations were applied when residuals did not meet assumptions of normal distribution. We collected a total of nuptial gifts from the field 21 in and 92 in , of which In Due to practical unfeasibility in isolating silk in 3 genuine gifts, silk weight was measured from samples.


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Amount of silk mg covering genuine prey and worthless prey leftovers and plants nuptial gifts collected from a natural population of the spider Pisaura mirabilis. We measured prey weight loss in 23 gifts.

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Whereas prey generally lost weight, in 3 cases we measured an increase of prey body mass. We were not able to isolate silk from prey in 4 gifts, therefore silk weight was measured from 30 samples. The amounts of silk mg covering experimentally produced nuptial gifts correlates linearly with the extent on which males fed on the prey prior to silk wrapping prey weight loss.

We estimated the costs of gift construction for males in terms of body mass loss male weight prior—after gift construction. After gift construction Of the total of 45 males, 40 constructed gifts in their housing vials overnight, without direct observations. We acknowledge that our experimental set up may explain the differences in average silk amounts measured from gifts produced during experimental observations 0.

Energetic limitations have been suggested to play a major role in the production of nuptial gifts Engels and Sauer ; Immonen et al. However, unlike suggested for male spiders Albo et al. In the field, males varying in their body condition were equally likely to carry genuine and worthless gifts.

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Similarly, males raised under high and low food regimes in the laboratory fed on prey prior to gift construction to an equal extent. We can therefore overall reject the hypothesis of worthless gifts deriving from the inability of poor quality males to produce genuine gifts. Worthless food gifts rather appear to result from a cheating strategy, evolved to opportunistically reduce the costs of mating while ensuring nutritional advantages. We indeed show that males producing worthless gifts increase their body mass from partially feeding on prey prior to gift construction.

Short-term access to nutrients may promote male mating success through strengthened courtship effort and vigour, providing males with mating advantages that go beyond gift quality Kotiaho ; Hunt et al. Using a cheaper strategy would then be particularly valuable with increasing energy requirements necessary to overcome resistance of already mated females Gabor and Halliday ; Maklakov et al.

This may also represent an effective male strategy to optimize the decreasing reproductive payoff of prolonged copulations in relation to the costs of not feeding on the prey. Males would indeed benefit from offering larger and more nutritive prey to females only if the extra copulation time achieved provides substantial fertilization advantages. If paternity gain is instead a decreasing payoff function of copulation duration Parker ; Thornhill b feeding on larger prey and using prey of reduced size for mating, may allow males to outweigh the costs of a missed meal while ensuring sufficient sperm transfer for reproduction.

We also found that males producing worthless gifts apply more silk regardless of their body condition or feeding state, suggesting that they are not energetically limited in their ability to invest in the gift and can strategically adjust silk expenditure despite its costs Albo et al. The silk cover is instrumental for a successful cheating strategy as it prevents female pre-mating evaluation of gift contents; greater silk amounts covering worthless gifts will effectively disguise distasteful or inedible items to females.

Additional silk wrapping may also be a means of extending inseminations in the face of the shorter matings yielded from worthless gifts, as extra silk layers will prolong female feeding duration and hence sperm transfer Lang Silk itself is likely an important component of the nuptial gift as females ingest it, hence cheaters may provide extra silk to improve the nutritive value of worthless items Craig et al. Finally, silk may also facilitate handling and control of smaller lower quality gifts Andersen et al. For all the above-mentioned reasons, we suggest that males use higher silk investment to compensate for the lower reproductive value of worthless gifts.

The finding that males that feed opportunistically on the prey to produce a worthless gift gain weight despite wrapping their gifts in more silk, further suggests that adding silk is not a costly compensation energy wise. We expect such compensation in gift quality however not to be complete, as achieving copulations equivalent in frequency and duration to those with genuine gifts would indicate that the worthless gifts may in turn have the potential to invade and replace genuine gifts LeBas and Hockham Nuptial gifts most likely evolved in the context of female foraging, with males providing extra nutrients to their mating partners while enhancing their reproductive success through improved fertilizations and increased female fecundity Boggs ; Vahed ; Bilde et al.

Male spiders may have originally benefited from investing in costly nutritive gifts at their own feeding expenses Albo et al. Only subsequently, males may have evolved means to reduce the nutritional costs of gift production by lowering content quality in order to facilitate their own reproductive interests, yet still fulfilling female mate choice expectations Sakaluk ; LeBas and Hockham Once the gift quality is reduced, females are likely to suffer fitness costs from being deceived owing to reduced direct benefits i. In return, males might evolve more efficient traits, such as silk wrapping to prevent accurate female assessment.

Females may instead become more resistant to the information carried by silk Albo et al. Overall, this would generate an antagonistic arms race between males under selection to deceive and females under selection to evolve resistance to deception Arnqvist and Rowe Our study shows that the use of worthless gifts is well established in the population, occurring in Similar frequencies are also described in natural populations of the Neotropical gift-giving spider Paratrechalea ornata Albo et al.

These high frequencies of worthless gifts are not explained by theory, which instead predicts cheating to occur at low incidence as the benefits of the strategy will decline with increasing frequency of cheats in the population Dawkins and Guilford ; Johnstone and Grafen Our following reasoning may provide a possible explanation for such high levels of worthless gifts. The non-trivial nutritional benefits gained by cheaters together with the effectiveness of the strategy derived by silk-wrapping worthless gifts are not rejected at higher rates , may allow males using worthless gifts to maintain overall high mating rates LeBas and Hockham ; Albo et al.

Despite the fact that larger inseminations promote male success in sperm competition when females mate with multiple partners Drengsgaard and Toft ; Simmons , shorter copulations may not necessarily affect male lifetime reproductive success negatively. Theoretical models of sperm allocation predict that males should increase sperm investment when facing sperm competition risk, but should reduce sperm investment under high sperm competition intensity Parker ; Parker and Pizzari Therefore under environmental conditions in which sperm competition is most intense i.

Under these circumstances males could enhance their reproductive success by ensuring mate acquisition through cheaper matings worthless gifts, shorter inseminations rather than investing largely in fewer costly encounters i.

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To conclude, genuine and worthless gifts may be maintained as alternative reproductive strategies, each of which maximizes male reproductive fitness under a specific set of circumstances Oliveira et al. Whether these reflect changes in the competitive social environment e. Silk wrapping, which increases assessment costs for females and compensates for the lower reproductive value of worthless gifts, facilitates the maintenance of the cheating strategy. Trine Bilde and anonymous reviewers gave valuable comments to the manuscript.

Data accessibility: Analyses reported in this article can be reproduced using the data provided by Tuni Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford. It furthers the University's objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide. Sign In or Create an Account.


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Silk-wrapped prey items are a girl’s best friend

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