Male courtship display is common in many animals; in some cases, males engage in courtship indiscriminately, spending significant time and energy courting heterospecifics with whom they have no chance of mating or producing viable offspring. Due to high costs and few if any benefits, we might expect mechanisms to evolve to reduce such misdirected courtship (or 'reproductive interference'). In Habronattus jumping spiders, males frequently court heterospecifics with whom they do not mate or hybridize; females are larger and are voracious predators, posing a severe risk to males who court indiscriminately. In this study, we examined patterns of misdirected courtship in a natural community of four sympatric Habronattus species (H. clypeatus, H. hallani, H. hirsutus, and H. pyrrithrix). We used direct field observations to weigh support for two hypotheses (differential microhabitat use and species recognition signaling) to explain how these species reduce the costs associated with misdirected courtship. We show that, while the four species of Habronattus do show some differences in microhabitat use, all four species still overlap substantially, and in three of the four species individuals equally encountered heterospecifics and conspecifics. Males courted females at every opportunity, regardless of species, and in some cases, this led to aggression and predation by the female. These results suggest that, while differences in microhabitat use might reduce misdirected courtship to some extent, co-existence of these four species may be possible due to complex communication (i.e. species-specific elements of a male's courtship display). This study is the first to examine misdirected courtship in jumping spiders. Studies of misdirected courtship and its consequences in the field are limited and may broaden our understanding of how biodiversity is maintained within a community.
ASJC Scopus subject areas