Royal Society Publishing

Energetic costs of size and sexual signalling in a wolf spider

J. S. Kotiaho , R. V. Alatalo , J. Mappes , M. G. Nielsen , S. Parri , A. Rivero


A prerequisite for honest handicaps is that there are significant condition–dependent costs in the expression of sexual traits. In the wolf spider Hygrolycosa rubrofasciata (Ohlert), sexual signalling (drumming) is costly in terms of increased mortality. Here we investigated whether this mortality may be caused by increased energy expenditure. During sexual signalling, metabolic rate was 22 times higher than at rest and four times higher than when males were actively moving. Metabolic rate per unit mass was positively related to absolute body mass during sexual signalling but not during other activities. This positive relationship is novel to any studies of metabolic rates. Indeed, it seems that the largest males can drum only 12 times per minute before reaching the maximum sustainable metabolic rate, whereas the smallest males may drum up to 39 times per minute. However, there is no relationship between body mass and drumming rate, indicating that larger males are able to compensate for the higher cost of drumming. There was a quadratic relationship between relative abdomen mass and overall body mass, which may provide a partial explanation for the increased energy expenditure of largest males while drumming. Altogether, our results indicate that sexual signalling is highly energetically demanding, which may be the main reason for the honesty of signalling in this species. In addition, the energetic costs are surprisingly strongly size dependent, which may compensate any disadvantage of small male size.

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