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Abstract

In the spider Amaurobius ferox, the mothers are systematically devoured by their young at a fairly constant interval. Observation of broods maintained under normal conditions showed the cannibalistic processes to be achieved within a few hours, in the course of which mothers and offspring appeared to exchange stimulation. In particular, the mothers exhibited ‘solicitation’ behaviours which appeared to activate and synchronize the young. An experiment was carried out to specify the respective role played by the two parties of the dyad in this case of matriphagy. The female's attitude towards the young (‘solicitation’, tolerance or predatory response) appeared to depend on her reproductive state. The attitude of the young towards the female (cannibalism, attraction, or flight) was shown to depend on their stage of development, but also on the female's attitude. These results support the hypothesis that, in A. ferox, matriphagy is regulated by mother-offspring interactions. Such a mechanism could ensure precise tuning of matriphagy in relation to the requirements of the young, and a certain amount of flexibility in reproduction.