• glands;
  • sexual selection;
  • secretion;
  • nuptial feeding;
  • female choice


Reproductive competition among males selects for a broad variety of strategies and traits from mate guarding to nuptial food gifts. Males of many dwarf spider species possess conspicuous secondary cephalic modifications, and the few studies available suggest that these cephalic structures are connected to extensive glandular tissue. Because females were observed to contact the male head structures during mating, these traits may have evolved in the context of sexual selection. We investigated the structure, glandular equipment, and sensory equipment of the cephalic regions of several species of the dwarf spider genus Oedothorax with varying degrees of sexual dimorphism using light and electron microscopy. In one Oedothorax species, there are two male morphs that exhibit a cephalic modification (O. gibbosus gibbosus) or not (O. gibbosus tuberosus). Our study demonstrates that all males investigated produce cephalic secretions, irrespective of the morphology of their cephalic region, however, they may differ in amount of secretion and in cellular organization. In males of O. apicatus,O. gibbosus gibbosus and O. retusus the gland cells are very abundant in the area of a cephalic hump, whereas in the less conspicuous O. agrestis, and O. gibbosus tuberosus the gland cells are restricted to a small area behind the ocular region or include the ocular region as in O. fuscus. The glandular tissue consists of two gland types in O. agrestis, O. fuscus, O. gibbosus tuberosus and O. retusus and of only one type in O. apicatus and O. gibbosus gibbosus. The setae present on the head structure of all species seem to function as mechano- and/or chemoreceptors. The implications of our findings for the evolution of secretory head structures are discussed along with their potential for driving speciation. J. Morphol. 2011. © 2011Wiley-Liss, Inc.