The main aim of my postdoctoral study is to understand how sexual selection drives the evolution of alternative male mating strategies. Using the nursery web spider, Pisaura mirabilis, the males of which employ alternative mating strategies such as death feigning and worthless nuptial gifts in the form of an insect prey wrapped in silk offered to females to obtain copulation, we will determine whether behavioural polymorphisms in sexually selected male reproductive traits are stable or plastic, through scoring the frequency of alternative strategies in different populations, and investigate how they co-vary with female mate choice and the intensity of sexual selection.
The intensity of sexual selection will be measured as the natural mating rate of females, which we will determine by genotyping sperm and offspring of field collected females, and the sperm stored in the female spermatheca using microsatellite markers. This requires DNA to be extracted from the females and the young, to run PCR amplifications of the samples, to ship the samples for genotyping, and finally to score the genotypes. With this data, we can examine whether sexual selection intensity predicts the frequencies of male reproductive strategies.