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D. Vanacker, J. Vanden Borre, A. Jonckheere, L. Maes, S. Pardo, F. Hendrickx and J. Maelfait (2003)

Dwarf spiders (Erigoninae, Linyphiidae, Araneae): good candidates for evolutionary research

Belgian Journal of Zoology, 133(2):143-149.

Males of numerous erigonine dwarf spider species, including those in the genera Oedothorax and Diplocephalus, are characterised by elaborate structures on the head region. Three evolutionary hypotheses for these head structures are : lock-and-key (reproductive isolation) hypothesis, "conflict of interest hypothesis" and diverse sexual selection hypotheses. Oedothorax gibbosus (Blackwall, 184 1) is a dwarf spider characterised by male dimorphism; the gibbosus morph has a hunch on the last third of the carapace, anterior to which is a hairy groove; the tuberosus morph does not have these features. During the so-called gustatorial courtship the female inserts her chelicerae into the hairy groove of gibbosus. Species recognition experiments reveal the occurrence of interspecific homo- and heterosexual "gustatorial courtships" of the female as well as the male of the closely related species Oedothorax fuscus (Blackwall, 1834) towards the gibbosus male. These interspecific courtships can be interpreted as robbery of the nuptial gift located in the groove and the hunch of the gibbosus males. Gibbosus males can also rob the nuptial gift of each other, but this occurs only rarely. We have never observed a 'gustatorial robbery' between a tuberosus male and a gibbosus male. There are also interspecific interactions between a tuberosus male and an O. fuscus female suggesting poorly developed reproductive isolation between these sister species. These interspecific courtships are in disagreement with the lock-and-key hypothesis. Indeed, according to this hypothesis the head structures of erigonine males should function as an early prevention of hybridisation. Female chelicerae and male head structures thus do not operate as key and lock. Therefore, the head structures might have evolved under the influence of sexual selection.

Vanacker, D Vanden Borre, J Jonckheere, A Maes, L Pardo, S Hendrickx, F Maelfait, JP

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