Mating behavior of the Sydney funnel-web spider (Atracidae: Atrax robustus) and implications for the evolution of courtship in mygalomorph spiders

S. C. Frank, K. Christensen, R. Lourenço, D. Harms, B. A. Buzatto

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Spiders have become a model group for sexual selection and mating system studies, but our understanding of courtship behavior in the group is heavily biased towards the infraorder Araneomorphae (‘modern’ spiders, such as orb weavers, jumping spiders, wolf spiders, crab spiders and many more). In the Mygalomorphae (tarantulas, trapdoor spiders, funnel-web spiders and relatives), only a few descriptions of courtship are available and recent developments in the phylogenetics of the group offer an opportunity to remap and investigate the evolution of mating behaviors. Using 81 trials filmed in captivity, we report on the courtship behaviors of the iconic Sydney funnel-web spider (Atracidae: Atrax robustus), which belongs to a large clade of biologically understudied mygalomorphs. Thirteen distinct behaviors are described for males, out of which at least two seem new to mygalomorphs, while four female behaviors are described. Moreover, the sequences of male behaviors are presented for when they come into contact with females inside or outside of their burrows. The mating positions of the pair, including details of how males use their legs and clasping spurs to grasp the females, are also presented. We discuss our results in a modern phylogenetic context, filling a gap in the understanding of sexual selection in the Mygalomorphae where such studies are rare and biased towards tarantulas. Finally, we attempt to consolidate descriptions of potentially homologous behaviors from several families in the group and offer insights into the evolution of cannibalism, male clasping spurs and female catalepsis (quiescence while mating).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)169-178
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Zoology
Issue number3
Early online date12 May 2023
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2023


  • courtship
  • mating behavior
  • mating systems
  • Mygalomorphae
  • pre-copulatory
  • sexual cannibalism
  • sexual conflict
  • sexual selection


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