9307056 Clark Salticid spiders are important animals for studying visual communication because males of many species are brightly colored and have decorations that are used to identify sex and species. While most animal species have only one type of male, the salticid spider Maevia inclemens has two male morphs that are so different they look as if they should belong to different species. The morphs also have distinctly different behaviors during courtship, but both appear to be equally successful, which raises questions about how females deal with two males that look and behave very differently. Dr. Clark will investigate mate selection by females, to determine if one male morph has a reproductive advantage over the other male morph. One morph has a conspicuous display, which may attract female attention from greater distances. However, this advantage may be offset by the risk of predation from birds, wasps, or other spiders. Dr. Clark will examine the trade-offs of a conspicuous display versus a cryptic display performed at different distances. Mate-selection experiments will be conducted utilizing new video and computer- animation techniques, allowing the experimenter to control male movement, distance from the female, and natural background coloration. Since very little is known about how such unusual male morphologies and behaviors evolve, these studies will contribute to an understanding of the selection mechanisms maintaining a unique male dimorphism in nature. In addition, the continued development of the video and computer-animation techniques will allow more detailed studies to be conducted on visual processing systems. These techniques allow animal morphology and behavior to be manipulated in ways that are not possible with live animals, and will contribute to more sophisticated animal behavior research projects in the future.

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Alma College
United States
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