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Eat or Not to Eat: Reversed Sexual Cannibalism as a Male Foraging Strategy in the Spider Micaria sociabilis (Araneae: Gnaphosidae)

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Abstract

Reversed sexual cannibalism represents an unusual situation in which a male kills and consumes a female. We examined this rare phenomenon in the spider Micaria sociabilis, whose males were observed to regularly cannibalise old females. In this study, we investigated male motivation for such behaviour in the light of ecological conditions such as mate availability and prey availability. We found that male cannibalism is not affected by short-term starvation but rather by male feeding history during the ontogenetic development in combination with prey availability during the adult stage. Males from the summer generation reached bigger sizes than males from the spring generation and females from both generations. They developed in the period with exceptionally high prey occurrence, but when they reached the adult stage, the prey availability decreased. In this period, we observed the highest frequency of cannibalism, however, only when the sex ratio was female biased. Reversed sexual cannibalism in M. sociabilis seems to represent an advantageous male foraging strategy, which is affected by prey availability and male feeding history, tuned by sex ratio and directed towards females of inferior quality.

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