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Abstract

We describe male-male competition in a wandering spider living on plants (Cupiennius getazi, Ctenidae) and discuss it within the general context of the mating system.

1. Males produce vibratory courtship signals (duration about 20 s) and competition signals (2 s). Upon exposure to female silk, males produce almost exclusively courtship signals (98%) if alone or in the presence of a female. In the presence of a rival alone, an average of 25% of a male's vibratory signals are courtship signals and 75% competition signals. In the presence of both a rival and a female, an average of 50% are courtship and 50% competition signals. Females respond to both male courtship and/or competition signals with vibratory courtship whereas males react by vibratory competition. The intensity of the reaction of both males and females is independent of the signal type.

2. Males displaying vibratory signals move slowly over the plant and repel attacks from rivals and females with extended front legs. Pairs of males interact in three ways. (i) Both males produce vibratory signals; one of them leaves the plant (53% of 90 trials). (ii) Both males vibrate, approach and touch (20%) or pounce on each other (20%). (iii) A male approaches the signalling opponent without producing vibrations and attacks him (7%). This is a conditional vibrocryptic tactic. The presence of a female incites male competition. Males do not interact with the female but approach each other (in 24% of the 26 trials “vibrocryptically”) and escalate more often (88%) and more quickly to overt fight than in the absence of a female. The male remaining on the plant approaches the female.

3. Male-male fights are ritualized. During 64 bodily contacts no male was injured. Males exposed to female silk and males using the vibrocryptic tactic were more often the winners of an interaction than males not exposed to female silk and than males vibrating while approaching their rival. The outcome of fights is not correlated with age, leg length, body weight and rate of signalling when no female is present. In contrast, body weight and leg length determine the outcome when a responding female is present, the larger male being the winner.

4. Intrasexual and intersexual interactions suggest that both male competition and female choice mechanisms may regulate sexual selection in this species.