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Wolf Spider Sociobiology: I. Agonistic Display and Dominance-Subordinance Relations in Adult Male Schizocosa Crassipes

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1. Agonistic display among adult male Schizocosa crassipes (Walckenaer), the brush-legged wolf spider, was described. These stereotyped displays are observed exclusively during male-male encounters. 2. The presence of conspicuous black tibial brushes on the males' forelegs, coupled with movements and/or postures of the forelegs, suggests a visually-mediated communication system. 3. R-type factor analysis of the agonistic behaviors treated as variables resulted in four factors which accounted for 74.3% of the variance. These factors were interpreted as "Approach/Signal", "Vigorous Pursuit", "Run/Retreat" and "Non-Linking" behaviors. A transition probability matrix of inter-individual behavior sequences allowed determination of which behaviors followed one another beyond chance levels. 4. Agonistic displays were graded on an Approach-Avoidance continuum and weighted from + 1 to +5 for approach behaviors and -1 to -5 for avoidance behaviors. The factor analysis of the behaviors and transition probability matrix served as guides for determining intensity weights for each agonistic behavior, and a Dominance Index (DI) was calculated for each spider with every partner. 5. Each spider was classed as Dominant, Intermediate or Subordinate on the basis of its DI and the number of spiders present in the test group, and a stable, linear dominance hierarchy was observed over 10 days. 6. Q-type factor analysis of the subjects treated as variables resulted in four factors accounting for 90.0% of the variance. The first two factors explained 83.3% of the variance, and were interpreted as "Subordinance" and "Dominance" on the basis of the DI's of those spiders comprising each factor. 7. Multiple stepwise discriminant analysis verified the three dominance categories and revealed differences among the groups on the basis of the kinds and frequencies of agonistic display. Dominant spiders exhibited Approach/Signal and Vigorous Pursuit behaviors; Subordinate spiders exhibited Run/Retreat behaviors; and Intermediate spiders exhibited Run, Retreat, Contact, Tapping, and approach-oriented behaviors. 8. Agonistic display in S. crassipes is a complex male-male communication system which may serve as a behavioral mechanism for preserving personal space among con-specifics, and for maximizing the chances of Dominant males mating.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Zoology and Microbiology, Ohio University, Athens, Ohio, U.S.A.


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