Analyzing the Courtship Behavior of Black Widow Spiders

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ANALYZING THE COURTSHIP BEHAVIOR OF BLACK WIDOW SPIDERS INTRODUCTION Black widow spiders (Latrodectus hesperus) have a peculiar mating behavior; males have a tendency to mate with every female they encounter whereas females mate only with the best males (Schneider and Lubin 1998). Females have a tendency to kill their mate after copulation; therefore this behavior has led to many studies in behavioral ecology. Black widow spiders have been used to study courtship and mating behaviors, and it has been documented that females don’t always kill males after copulation (Breen and Sweet 1985). In the case of black widow spiders, appearances and size do not always capture the mating prize; courtship display will determine selection (Ally et al., 2009). In this lab, black widow spider’s courtship behavior under the presence and absence of other males was the subject of interest. We tested the hypothesis that courtship is influenced by the presence of other males. We predicted that courtship in the presence of other males will be higher than in the absence of males. METHODS Black widow spiders were observed during a 30 minute period. Individual observations were obtained from different groups in the classroom, each observing the courtship of one spider at a time. Black widow spiders were placed in a glass container (approx. 18"L x 12"W x 12"H). The set up consisted of two spider webs in the glass container. On left side of the container was a female black widow with a single male. On the right side of the container was a female black widow with two males. The black widow courtship was measured for 30 minutes, all under the same environmental conditions. The courtship was defined as the number of movements; these movements were measured every 30 seconds. The class data was collected and recorded. Final results and observations were calculated using all

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