Species-Specificity of Chemical Signals: Silk Source Affects Discrimination in a Wolf Spider (Araneae: Lycosidae)

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Abstract

Female spiders deposit chemical cues that elicit male courtship behavior with silk. These cues are often assumed to be species-specific although male spiders may court in response to chemical cues of closely-related species. We used behavioral assays to test the extent of species discrimination of female chemical cues by male Schizocosa ocreata, a wolf spider (Lycosidae). Discrimination, expressed as relative courtship intensity of males, varied significantly with phylogenetic distance. Males did not discriminate between female cues of conspecifics and a sibling species, S. rovneri. Courtship response was intermediate for another species within the ocreata clade and not different from control for spiders outside the clade. These findings support the sibling species status of S. ocreata and S. rovneri, and also suggest the composition of female chemical signals is conserved across closely related wolf spider species.

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