Love Hurts

Courting a pretty female spider is a hazardous business for the young male. In most cases, the young suitor has to spend a lot of time distracting the apple of his eye, and then rush in to give her a hug. However, this is like riding a tiger and is only the start of his troubles. Kralj-Fišer et al (1) have published a new study on sexual proclivities of web orb spiders (Nephilengys malaberensis) in J. Animal Behavior.

Getting away with getting the girl can have dire results, with 75% of them ending up in a sexual cannibalistic feast. The other problem that they have to face is genital amputation, a cruel trick of nature to plug the female and ensure perpetuation of the genes by denying her to other suitors. 75% of the young Lotharios suffer that fate, but note that some of these escape the feast.

The 25% of those that missed dinner, eunuchs, half eunuchs or whole males, all had to do close guard duty to keep other males away from their girl. A pretty hazardous game.

The result of the study showed that the eunuchs fought more aggressively than the half eunuchs or the intact males. Not a surprising result, perhaps, if you have given your all for love, you wouldn’t want it to be for nothing. The others always have a chance with her sister.

  1. J. Animal Behavior, 10.1016/j.anbehav.2011.02.010

One Response so far.

  1. jazgal says:

    This kind of courting seems like riskier business for some species than others. Counting my blessings that for (most) humans, this kind of drama in the bedroom is not required! Makes one wonder why it is necessarily so extreme for the orb spiders.

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