By wrapping prey and offering it as a nuptial gift, males can obtain mating and/or parental benefits despite some costs. Males of the Neotropical semiaquatic spider Paratrechalea ornata (Trechaleidae) offer females a nuptial gift consisting of a prey item wrapped in silk. What stimulus inhibits males from feeding and elicits gift construction? We hypothesized that signals associated with female silk threads could affect decision-making by males. We investigated three groups of males carrying a captured prey under different experimental treatments. In the treatment S, males were exposed to an arena with female silk; in SF, males were exposed to both silk and a female confined in a cell, and in the control group, males were exposed to a clean arena. Gift construction was observed only in the S and SF groups, with a similar occurrence rate. After touching females (SF group), males did not change their pattern of gift construction. Gift construction occurrence increased with male and female age. The results lead us to assume that the existence of chemical cues associated with female silk elicits male searching behaviour and gift construction, allowing males to decide between eating or wrapping prey according to the possibility of a sexual encounter. Anticipating gift construction, males are ready to mate, diminishing the risks of predation, female desertion or male–male scramble competition. The effect of age on behavioural variation and the rate of construction is discussed.
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