Mating in the harvestman Leiobunum vittatum (Arachnida: Opiliones): from premating struggles to solicitous tactile engagement

in Behaviour
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When mating interactions are influenced by multiple sources of selection, they may involve multiple stages of mate assessment. At each stage, a different set of morphological and behavioural traits may be important in determining the outcome of the interaction. Here, we test the potential for multiple sources of selection to shape mating interactions in Leiobunum vittatum harvestmen, commonly known as ‘daddy longlegs’. We provide a qualitative and quantitative study of mating interactions, and investigate the influence of multiple morphological traits on each of several distinct stages of their mating interactions. Mating interactions start with a struggle between males and females during which the male attempts to secure the females in a mating embrace. Success at this stage depends on the length of the male’s clasping pedipalps: those with shorter pedipalps (and thus greater mechanical advantage) were more successful. Male size relative to the female determines how quickly males achieve this embrace. Mating interactions then proceed to tactile exchanges between males and females, indicating the potential for mutual mate choice and/or peri- and post-copulatory selection. We found no morphological predictors of the timing of these later stages of the mating interactions, and suggest that the exchange of a nuptial gift is important for the dynamics of these stages. Overall, our results highlight L. vittatum as a potentially highly informative group for studying how traits involved in mating are shaped by the interaction of selection across multiple stages in mating interactions.

Mating in the harvestman Leiobunum vittatum (Arachnida: Opiliones): from premating struggles to solicitous tactile engagement

in Behaviour

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Figures

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    To-scale diagram of the experimental set-up for mating trials between male and female L. vittatum.

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    Drawing of a mating embrace between a female (bottom left) and male (upper right) L. vittatum. The male typically starts by wrapping his third pair of legs on the femur of the female’s second pair of legs. Here, he is shown wrapping at the distal portion of her leg II. As the interaction continued, the female attempted to pull her leg free from his grasp. The inset shows a more detailed view of the leg wrapping behaviour.

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    Visual summary of a typical mating encounter between male and female L. vittatum. (A) First contact occurs when males/females bump into a partner; (B) male coxal hooking using the pedipalps; (C) males extend their chelicerae; (D) females respond with pedipalpal tapping and cheliceral grasping; (E) intromission; (F) termination of the mating interaction.

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    Timeline of a typical mating interaction between male and female L. vitttatum showing first contact, first male attempt, resolution, and for successful trials first intromission and termination of the interaction (trial end).

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    Flowchart of the behavioural transitions during a mating interaction between male and female L. vittatum. Arrowheads point towards stop state behaviours, and flow from start state behaviours. In some instances, the pair would pause for a period of >10 s, then resume the same behaviour, indicated by looping arrows. The thickness of lines refers to the percentage of the total number of the start state behaviour that resulted in the stop state behaviour the arrow points towards.

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    Difference in the size of male pedipalpal femur length of unsuccessful (male rejected) versus successful (male secures the mating embrace) mating trials between male–female pairs of L. vittatum. Shorter pedipalps provide greater mechanical advantage as per general lever mechanics (FiLi=FoLo).

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    Length of the premating struggle between male and female pairs of L. vittatum in relation to the difference in the PC1 describing male size and the PC1 describing female size. Filled circles with solid lines represent the relationship between the length of a struggle in successful trials (time from first attempt to securing a female), and open circles with dashed lines represent the length of a struggle for unsuccessful trials (time from first attempt to rejection by a female).

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