Understanding diversity has been a pursuit in evolutionary biology since its inception. A challenge arises when sexual selection has played a role in diversification. Questions of what constitutes a ‘species’, homoplasy vs. synapomorphy, and whether sexually selected traits show phylogenetic signal have hampered work on many systems. Peacock spiders are famous for sexually selected male courtship dances and peacock-like abdominal ornamentation. This lineage of jumping spiders currently includes over 90 species classified into two genera, Maratus and Saratus. Most Maratus species have been placed into groups based on secondary sexual characters, but evolutionary relationships remain unresolved. Here we assess relationships in peacock spiders using phylogenomic data (ultraconserved elements and RAD-sequencing). Analyses reveal that Maratus and the related genus Saitis are paraphyletic. Many, but not all, morphological groups within a ‘core Maratus’ clade are recovered as genetic clades but we find evidence for undocumented speciation. Based on original observations of male courtship, our comparative analyses suggest that courtship behaviour and peacock-like abdominal ornamentation have evolved sequentially, with some traits inherited from ancestors and others evolving repeatedly and independently from ‘simple’ forms. Our results have important implications for the taxonomy of these spiders, and provide a much-needed evolutionary framework for comparative studies of the evolution of sexual signal characters.
Keywords: Australia, character evolution, multimodal signals, rapid evolution, sexual selection, taxonomy, ultraconserved elements
Madeline B Girard, Damian O Elias, Guilherme Azevedo, Ke Bi, Michael M Kasumovic, Julianne M Waldock, Erica Bree Rosenblum and Marshal Hedin. 2021. Phylogenomics of Peacock Spiders and Their Kin (Salticidae: Maratus), with Implications for the Evolution of Male Courtship Displays. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society. blaa165. DOI: 10.1093/biolinnean/blaa165