Why Black Widow Males Prefer Younger Women
October 7, 2016
Mother Nature Network — The name black widow for this spider does not come out of thin air; it comes from the females’ tendency to kill and eat their mates after copulation. But Prof. (Emeritus) Yael Lubin and Ph.D student Iara Sandomirsky, of BGU’s Marco and Louise Mitrani Department of Desert Ecology, recently took part in research showing that males are seeking out younger females to avoid this grisly end.
This at first surprised the scientists, as young females were thought to be too underdeveloped to get fertilized. After observing the spiders further, however, they realized this wasn’t necessarily the case. And in even better news for the males, younger females were far less likely to kill and devour them.
“Immature mating may be a widespread, previously unrecognized mating tactic,” the authors of the study write.
Male black widows face an uphill battle when it comes to tapping into this younger dating pool. There is only a small window of time when the females are old enough to lay eggs, but not quite fully mature. Plus, it’s tough to even locate juvenile females, as they don’t release the pheromones mature ones do to attract a mate.
Still, for the males that can find a younger partner, the reward of walking away un-eaten is well worth the effort.