Breaking the cliché: sex reversal in size dimorphism and mobility in South American Allocosinae (Lycosidae) spiders

Anita Aisenberg, Fedra Bollatti, Mariela Oviedo-Diego, Andrea Albín, Marcelo Alves Días, Miquel A. Arnedo, Antonio D. Brescovit, Marcelo Casacuberta, Diego Cavassa, Verónica Gonnet, Matías Izquierdo, Álvaro Laborda, Luis N. Piacentini, Patricio Pliscoff, Rodrigo Postiglioni, Miguel Simó, Renato A. Texeira, Leticia Bidegaray-Batista*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Typically, females and males are expected to have characteristic sexual strategies and patterns of size dimorphism, but these generalizations are subject to exceptions. The occurrence of atypical cases has been related to species or populations from environments under strong physical, ecological and/or social constraints. Allocosa marindia and Allocosa senex are two coastal spiders (Lycosidae: Allocosinae) with reversal in sex roles and sexual size dimorphism. Males are larger than females, and females are the mobile sex that initiates courtship. It is unclear whether the occurrence of non-typical sexual traits in Allocosinae spiders is correlated with coastal habitats. Our aim was to study sexual size dimorphism and surface mobility in Allocosinae spiders from different habitats throughout South America. We revised specimens from scientific collections and performed 3-day samplings to collect individuals and determine nocturnal surface mobility. We analysed a total of 1071 Allocosinae adult individuals from 18 species and/ or morphotypes. Our results revealed new species inhabiting coastal habitats with reversal in sexual size dimorphism and higher nocturnal surface activity in females; however, not all coastal species shared those characteristics. Future studies will focus on studying other ecological, physiological and/or phylogenetic factors that could be shaping the origin and maintenance of sex role reversal in Allocosinae.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)224-239
Number of pages16
JournalBiological Journal of the Linnean Society
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2023
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2023. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of The Linnean Society of London.


  • activity patterns
  • sex role reversal
  • sex traits
  • sexual dimorphism
  • wolf spiders


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