Male spiders eavesdrop to beat rivals
Male spiders often eavesdrop on their rivals, using their 'secrets' to steal their mate, behaviour which is not uncommon in human society.
As male wolf spiders go searching for a mate, it appears they eavesdrop, match and even try to outdo the mating dances of their successful rivals, a behaviour seen mainly in vertebrate animals.
"Eavesdropping on the communication of others is widespread among animals and often serves as a means of obtaining information," says David Clark, professor of biology at Alma College, who led the study.
"For example, studies of birds, mammals and fish have shown that male bystanders observing all male contests can learn about the strengths of potential opponents, while female observers may copy the mate choices of others," adds Clark, the journal Biology Letters reports.
"This new discovery shows that male wolf spiders also eavesdrop on the visual signals of courting males," says Clark, according to an Alma College statement.
Those visual signals included a leg-tapping mating dance of the male wolf spiders. As part of the research project, the spiders were collected from the wild and observed when placed in a lab with a video of a 'virtual' male spider that was sending out courtship signals in a digital version of a natural habitat.