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Extreme natural size variation in both sexes of a sexually cannibalistic mantidfly

Cite this dataset

Lietzenmayer, Laurel; Goldstein, Lauren; Pasche, Josephine; Taylor, Lisa (2022). Extreme natural size variation in both sexes of a sexually cannibalistic mantidfly [Dataset]. Dryad.


In sexually cannibalistic animals, the relative sizes of potential mates often predict the outcome of aggressive encounters. Mantidflies are spider egg predators as larvae and generalist predators as adults. Unlike most cannibalistic species, individual mantidflies can be substantially larger than other individuals, regardless of sex. Using preserved collections of Dicromantispa sayi, we focused on three body size metrics that we found to be positively correlated and accurately measured across researchers. We found extreme size variation in both sexes: the largest 10% of females were 1.72x larger than the smallest 10%, and the largest 10% of males were 1.65x larger than the smallest 10%. On average, females were 7.94% larger than males. In exploring possible causes of this variation, we uncovered differences among populations. To explore the effect of spider egg sac size on adult mantidfly size, we reared mantidfly larvae on egg sacs from two jumping spider species with small or large egg sacs. Mantidfly larvae reared on small egg sacs were smaller than those reared on large egg sacs. This study provides the groundwork to design ecologically relevant experiments exploring the causes and consequences of extreme size variation in an understudied system with intriguing natural history. 


See manuscript for details about data collection. Data used museum collections from the Florida State Collection of Arthropods.

Usage notes

Missing values are denoted by "na". Please see the ReadMe file for explanations of specific variables. 


National Science Foundation, Award: IOS-1557867

United States Department of Agriculture, Award: Hatch project 1016166

National Science Foundation, Award: IOS-1831751

United States Department of Agriculture, Award: McIntire-Stennis project 1017978