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Some Male Spiders Choose Who Eats Them

Some Male Spiders Choose Who Eats Them

June 3, 2016

Natural Sciences

NPR — Male orb-weaving spiders get devoured by the females they mate with, but a newly published study shows that at least the poor guys get to choose the females who will cannibalize them.

Dr. Eric Yip, a post-doctoral fellow at BGU’s Marco and Louise Mitrani Department of Desert Ecology, has been studying Cyrtophora citricola, a kind of orb-weaving spider native to the Mediterranean, who are unique in their mating habits.

“We had a lot of males that just sat in the females’ webs for days and days and days and never copulated,” says Dr. Yip.

eric-yip

Dr. Eric Yip

This pickiness on the part of the male is uncommon in nature, where females usually survey the males and make their selection. The male spiders observed in the study would wait for a female with certain key traits.

“The ideal female is a very well-fed, recently molted female to adulthood,” Dr. Yip says. “So she’s got a lot of resources for eggs; she’s a virgin so he may not have any competition for those eggs with other male sperm, and she’s young, so she hasn’t expended any of these resources that she’s gathered throughout her juvenile life.”

Males also preferred female spiders that had been raised on a hefty feeding regimen, but that is due to the fact that well-fed females produce more eggs — not because the males were hoping she wouldn’t be hungry enough to eat them.

“Females on the high and low feeding regimes were equally likely to cannibalize their males,” Dr. Yip explains.

Read more and listen to a podcast about this research on the NPR website >>