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Acta Biotheor. 2015 Mar;63(1):71-81. doi: 10.1007/s10441-014-9237-5. Epub 2014 Aug 2.

Energetics, scaling and sexual size dimorphism of spiders.

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Departamento de Ciencias Ecológicas, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad de Chile, Santiago, Chile.


The extreme sexual size dimorphism in spiders has motivated studies for many years. In many species the male can be very small relative to the female. There are several hypotheses trying to explain this fact, most of them emphasizing the role of energy in determining spider size. The aim of this paper is to review the role of energy in sexual size dimorphism of spiders, even for those spiders that do not necessarily live in high foliage, using physical and allometric principles. Here we propose that the cost of transport or equivalently energy expenditure and the speed are traits under selection pressure in male spiders, favoring those of smaller size to reduce travel costs. The morphology of the spiders responds to these selective forces depending upon the lifestyle of the spiders. Climbing and bridging spiders must overcome the force of gravity. If bridging allows faster dispersal, small males would have a selective advantage by enjoying more mating opportunities. In wandering spiders with low population density and as a consequence few male-male interactions, high speed and low energy expenditure or cost of transport should be favored by natural selection. Pendulum mechanics show the advantages of long legs in spiders and their relationship with high speed, even in climbing and bridging spiders. Thus small size, compensated by long legs should be the expected morphology for a fast and mobile male spider.

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