By Mark Brown, Wired UK
A team of biologists has discovered that male spiders spy on their rivals during courtship ceremonies, so they can mimic and pinch their most successful dance moves.
The spiders used in this study were collected from the field. Naive, lab-raised spiders who weren’t exposed to male courtship toward females didn’t understand the dance and the results were inconclusive. But spiders from the field, who knew what the leg-tapping was all about, behaved as if their on-screen rival was courting a nearby female.
“Eavesdropping on the communication of others is widespread among animals and often serves as a means of obtaining information,” said David Clark, a professor of biology at Alma College and lead author of the study.
“For example, studies of birds, mammals and fish have shown that male bystanders observing male-male contests can learn about the strengths of potential opponents, while female observers may copy the mate choices of others,” explains Clark.
“This ’signal matching’ behavior has only been seen before in vertebrate animals like birds or fish, and suggests that invertebrates like spiders may have more sophisticated behaviors than previously known,” explains George Uetz, a professor of biological sciences at the University of Cincinnati and the study’s co-principal investigator.