Date Presented

Spring 4-27-2006

Document Type


Access Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Science


Animal Science

First Advisor

Dr. Kari Benson

Second Advisor

Dr. Nancy Cowden

Third Advisor

Dr. Anne Reeve


Sexual signals are commonly used among animals to enhance reproductive success. Chemical signals such as pheromones are commonly used to attract mates. Little is known, though, about how these signals are received or interpreted by the target. I studied the water spider, Dolomedes scriptus in the pisaurid family. Most Dolomedes species only make webs as a nursery for their young. However, females often create silk drag lines, potentially serving for species recognition. In some Dolomedes species, females who are previously mated are known to cannibalize most approaching males. Males might avoid cannibalism by avoiding mated females, particularly if they can determine her mating status from a distance. Both mature and immature male and female spiders were collected from Claytor Nature Study Center in Bedford, Virginia. Males were exposed to a foam substrate on which penultimate, virgin, and mated females had been housed. Male reaction did not differ significantly between penultimate and mature female substrates. However, males reacted more positively to substrate from virgin females than from previously mated females, suggesting that males can determine a female’s mating status before he ever encounters her. This raises some interesting questions about the mechanisms of female mating status and how they have evolved.