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    Horny Dude Spiders Give Crappy Gifts To Lady Spiders for Sex

    Written by

    Michael Byrne

    Editor

    And then play dead when the lady spider says “no way.”

    From the field of science you might call “gross things spiders and insects do to each other that can be easily anthropomorphized in even more gross ways” we have this: in order to “woo” female spiders into mating, guy spiders (of the nursery web spider variety) give silk-wrapped gifts. Usually, it’s a tasty bug but sometimes it’s just an inedible seed or the exoskeleton of a tasty bug. This is according to new research published in the BMC Evolutionary Biology journal that also includes the tidbit that male spiders, if spurned, will sometimes “play dead” and then try again.

    Dunno. Maybe the lady spider is supposed to think it’s a whole new spider. In any case, it gets grosser. The way they did the research is by giving the male spiders an assortment of gifts and observing which they wrapped and presented. They found that female spiders receiving crap gifts yet still, uh, giving it up, allowed the male spiders less time to do their thing, so to speak.

    Quoth lead researcher Maria Albo:

    The evolution of male deceit involves a complex equation of costs and benefits. It costs the males to find and wrap a gift, but these costs can be reduced if the male does not have to first catch his gift, or gives one that has already been eaten. The benefit of the gift is longer mating, which leads to more sperm being transferred, and potentially a higher number of offspring. However, the females are wise to deception and terminate mating early for worthless gifts.

    The final results show that the number of eggs hatching was lower if the female had not received a gift, but there was little difference between females who had received an edible or inedible gift. The success of cheating probably explains why both strategies have co-evolved and are maintained in the population.

    I suppose this is much cuter than black widow mating, in which the lady spider tries to eat its mate post-copulation.

    Connections:

    Reach this writer at michaelb@motherboard.tv or @everydayelk.

    Topics: spiders, spider sex, nature

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