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Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2014 Oct;46 Pt 4:509-18. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2014.07.018. Epub 2014 Aug 1.

Dangerous mating systems: signal complexity, signal content and neural capacity in spiders.

Author information

  • 1Department of Biological Sciences, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia. Electronic address:
  • 2Department of Biological Sciences, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia.
  • 3School of Biological Sciences, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, USA.
  • 4Biozentrum Grindel, Zoological Institute and Museum, University of Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany.


Spiders are highly efficient predators in possession of exquisite sensory capacities for ambushing prey, combined with machinery for launching rapid and determined attacks. As a consequence, any sexually motivated approach carries a risk of ending up as prey rather than as a mate. Sexual selection has shaped courtship to effectively communicate the presence, identity, motivation and/or quality of potential mates, which help ameliorate these risks. Spiders communicate this information via several sensory channels, including mechanical (e.g. vibrational), visual and/or chemical, with examples of multimodal signalling beginning to emerge in the literature. The diverse environments that spiders inhabit have further shaped courtship content and form. While our understanding of spider neurobiology remains in its infancy, recent studies are highlighting the unique and considerable capacities of spiders to process and respond to complex sexual signals. As a result, the dangerous mating systems of spiders are providing important insights into how ecology shapes the evolution of communication systems, with future work offering the potential to link this complex communication with its neural processes.

Copyright © 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


Communication; Multi-modal signals; Sexual cannibalism; Spider; Vibrations

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