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Size-dependent mating strategies and the risk of cannibalism

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E-mail: m.elgar@unimelb.edu.au

Abstract

The role of sexual selection in determining the nature and direction of sexual size dimorphism may depend upon the timing of sexual selection, and this may also influence the variation in male size. For example, selection through sperm competition favours smaller males in the highly sexually size dimorphic orb-weaving spider Nephila edulis, whereas larger males are better able to exclude their smaller rivals from the central hub of the web where mating takes place. We investigate experimentally the role of body size and hub tenure in determining male fertilization success when males of different sizes compete for a single female over a 24-h period that includes a period of darkness. Our results confirm that small and large males obtain similar paternity share but that, in contrast with previous studies, hub tenure does not translate into greater paternity share. Unexpectedly, smaller males are at greater risk of postmating sexual cannibalism than larger males, suggesting that natural selection through sexual cannibalism may place a lower limit on male size. © 2008 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2008, 94, 355–363.

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