Male contest investment changes with male body size but not female quality in the spider Nephila clavipes

Nerine Constant, Diego Valbuena, Clare C. Rittschof

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Animals use rules to adjust their level of investment in a contest. We evaluate male strategies during contests over females in the golden orb-web spider Nephila clavipes. We tested whether male behaviour changes with female value, and found that contests were similar in intensity and outcome whether the female was a juvenile or adult, virgin or non-virgin, or whether one male had invested sperm in the female. We found evidence that males use a self-assessment strategy when deciding to withdraw from a contest. Loser body size and contestant size difference were correlated with a higher frequency of contest escalation, and fights involving two large males were more likely to escalate than a fight in which one male was small. A multiple regression showed that loser body size had a stronger effect on contest escalation than contestant body size difference. More importantly, the size of the winning male had no effect on contest escalation, a key prediction of a self-assessment strategy. In N. clavipes, body size is the primary factor that determines the outcome of male contests, and males do not appear to assess their opponent or the quality of the resource when deciding to withdraw from the fight.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)218-223
Number of pages6
JournalBehavioural Processes
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2011

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank the Ordway-Swisher Biological Station and the Florida State Parks Service for use of their property in this study. N. Constant, and D. Valbuena, and C. C. Rittschof were supported by the University of Florida H.H.M.I. G.A.T.O.R. Program during the course of this research project. We thank H. Jane Brockmann for her suggestions, and Matthew Edwards for his assistance with field work.


  • Assessment strategy
  • Body size female quality
  • Resource holding potential

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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