acta ethologica

, Volume 22, Issue 1, pp 47–56 | Cite as

Fifty shades of silk: sexual behavior and bridal veil deposition in the spider Ctenus longipes

  • Mariana C. TrilloEmail author
  • Álvaro Laborda
  • Gabriel Francescoli
  • Anita Aisenberg
Original Paper


Males of some spider species lay silk threads on the female’s body during courtship and/or copulation. There are several hypotheses trying to explain the function of this behavior, known as bridal veil deposition. One of them proposes that bridal veils could occur to immobilize females and prevent sexual cannibalism when females are larger than males, or that they could inhibit female aggressive behavior. Ctenus longipes is a wandering and nocturnal spider that inhabits ravine forests in South America. The aim of this work was to describe in detail courtship and copulatory behaviors in C. longipes and confirm the occurrence of a bridal veil, discussing its possible functions in this species. For that purpose, we exposed 13 virgin male-female pairs at laboratory conditions and recorded courtship, copulation, and post-copulation behaviors. We also measured body and leg size of all individuals to estimate sexual size dimorphism. In all the cases, the male deposited silk on top of the female’s body in the form of a bridal veil, covering the anterior carapace and forelegs. The data did not support the hypothesis that bridal veil deposition is related to sexual cannibalism avoidance because females were not immobilized during mating, larger females did not present longer silk bindings, and we did not observe aggressions in any case. Future studies where males are prevented from producing silk will allow a better understanding of whether or not the veil is involved in avoiding cannibalism in C. longipes.


Courtship Ctenidae Mate binding Sexual size dimorphism Sexual conflict 



We thank M. González for her help with the use of JWatcher and ImageJ programs, R. Postiglioni for his help with statistics and bibliography, L. Montes de Oca for prey maintenance, and M. Casacuberta for his pictures and video and for his help at the field. We are also grateful to E. Stanley, A. Albín, F. Baldenegro, and M. Carballo for their help with spider rearing. M. Simó provided bibliography and helped us to access material deposited in Colección de Entomología of Facultad de Ciencias, Montevideo, Uruguay. We are grateful to the two reviewers and the editor for their comments that improved the final version of the manuscript. A.A. and G.F. acknowledge support by PEDECIBA, UdelaR, and SNI (ANII).

Supplementary material


Bridal veil deposition and mating in Ctenus longipes. The male is on top of the female, and both sexes face to opposite directions. Video by Marcelo Casacuberta. (AVI 17646 kb)


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Copyright information

© ISPA, CRL 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Departamento de Ecología y Biología EvolutivaInstituto de Investigaciones Biológicas Clemente EstableMontevideoUruguay
  2. 2.Sección Entomología, Facultad de CienciasMontevideoUruguay
  3. 3.Sección Etología, Facultad de CienciasMontevideoUruguay

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