Chemical and vibratory communication: testing the role of spider silk in a reproductive context
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Descrizione del progetto
Understanding the functional role of multimodal signalling is key to the study of animal communication. In a reproductive context, animals communicate with each other using a complex interplay of sensory modalities which ultimately affect their reproductive success and fitness. The proposed research will make use of the spider Pisaura mirabilis, a model organism in the study of sexual selection, to uncover the functional roles of chemical and vibratory signals by addressing silk-borne communication between the sexes. Spiders represent an excellent group for studying chemical- and vibratory-based signalling due to their poor vision in most taxa and the production of silk, a key source and/or vehicle of chemicals and vibrations. Through a series of behavioural assays, coupled with structural analyses of silk and measures of male reproductive fitness, we will determine whether and how chemical and vibratory signalling affect reproductive outcomes. We will answer whether signalling is condition and/or state dependent and if individuals employ specific mate choice tactics for partners varying in their signalling efforts. We will also explore the role of silk in facilitating the transmission of chemical and vibratory information contents. We hypothesize that chemical and vibratory signals convey crucial information to the opposite sex in a mating context, with females signalling their location and/or quality to males, and, given the high costs of nuptial gift production for males, males employing specific mate choice tactics for females varying in their reproductive value. The information generated in this interdisciplinary project will shed light on the adaptive nature of multimodal signalling, and fill the knowledge gap on the use of chemical and vibrational channels for reproduction.