Quickies can be fatal for male spiders

November 13th, 2008 - 3:27 pm ICT by ANI  

London, Nov 13 (ANI): A new study by researchers the University of Toronto Scarborough, Canada, has found that female redback spiders kill and eat partners that demand quick sex in place of long-term courtship.

The study also revealed that a little bit of wooing goes a long way in arousing female redbacks passion for the male.

To study the courting habits of redback spiders, Jeffrey Stoltz from the University of Toronto Scarborough, Canada, had to set up females with either one or two males. The researchers then filmed the courtships as they unfolded.

They found that single males spent up to five hours courting the female by alternately plucking the web and beating on her abdomen before attempting to mate.

During copulation, the female always started to eat the male, but roughly 90 percent of the time she would let him escape after a quick nibble to have another try at courtship and mating.

However, when a rival was present, the story changed, although this depended on the strength of the competition.

When the males were of differing size, the smaller of the two competitors would often try to sneak past its rival and copulate quickly, leaving just 45 minutes for courtship.

The females seemed to dislike this, since the researchers observed a greater probability of cannibalism following shorter courtships.

Overall, the females ate roughly half of the sneaking partners in these cases.

“Prolonged courtship probably gives information on a male’’s endurance. We speculate that it might indicate whether the male had been able to find good food reserves when they were young,” New Scientist quoted Stoltz, as saying.

Killing the lazy suitors prevents the female spiders from mating for a second time and fathering more of her young.

The study is published in the journal Animal Behaviour. (ANI)

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