Sex, for male spiders, can be a matter of life or death, as some females are known to cannibalize their partners in the midst of the act. But, scientists have discovered that male spiders have developed their own ‘abhorrent’ ways to improve their chances at survival

Male redback spiders target young females to mate

The sex lives of spiders are arguably among the most bizarre – and gruesome – mating practices in the animal kingdom.

Sex, for male spiders, can be a matter of life or death, as some females are known to cannibalize their partners in the midst of the act.

But, scientists have discovered that male spiders have developed their own ‘abhorrent’ ways to improve their chances at survival.

A study on redback spiders has revealed that males often seek out females that are still young and ‘immature,’ as they may not yet have learned how to eat their partner.

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Sex, for male spiders, can be a matter of life or death, as some females are known to cannibalize their partners in the midst of the act. But, scientists have discovered that male spiders have developed their own ‘abhorrent’ ways to improve their chances at survival

Sex, for male spiders, can be a matter of life or death, as some females are known to cannibalize their partners in the midst of the act. But, scientists have discovered that male spiders have developed their own ‘abhorrent’ ways to improve their chances at survival

Redbacks are a species of venomous widow spider.

Previous research has found that some males in the species will mate with younger females in effort to avoid being cannibalized – but, scientists remained unsure how this tactic affected the females.

In the new study, they examined the behaviour to determine if it was a form of ‘coercion,’ which is known to be costly to females, as male will invest little effort in courtship and even injure their partner.

But, to the researchers’ surprise, they found the behaviour may work to the benefit of both males and females.

‘There’s no evidence to suggest this behaviour is costly to females in terms of survivorship and reproductive output,’ said Luciana Baruffaldi, director of the Andrade Lab and lead author of the research.

‘The early mating may be good for female redback spiders because in nature they’re at risk of not finding a mate at all.’

The research revealed that females who had mated when they were immature did not signal for another mate in the future.

It also allowed them to avoid any mating delays, which can affect their potential offspring and even lead to a shorter life, as they produce eggs that have a higher demand on their resources.

Redbacks are among the spider species in which females are known to devour their mate.

A study on redback spiders has revealed that males often seek out females that are still young and ‘immature,’ as they may not yet have learned how to eat their partner. To the researchers’ surprise, they found the behaviour may work to the benefit of both males and females

A study on redback spiders has revealed that males often seek out females that are still young and ‘immature,’ as they may not yet have learned how to eat their partner. To the researchers’ surprise, they found the behaviour may work to the benefit of both males and females

In some cases, the males even give them a hand, by doing ‘summersaults’ to position their abdomen right near the female’s mouth.

And, females will continue mating even while they eat a male.

While the behaviour may sound strange, the researchers say it may have reproductive benefits.

‘When you study evolutionary ecology there’s a temptation to ascribe human characteristics or judgements on the behaviour being observed,’ said co-author Maydianne Andrade.

The researchers revealed that females who had mated when they were immature did not signal for another mate in the future. Redbacks are a species of venomous widow spiders

The researchers revealed that females who had mated when they were immature did not signal for another mate in the future. Redbacks are a species of venomous widow spiders

‘What we’re seeing could have more than one evolutionary implication, and even if it looks abhorrent to us, the evolutionary consequence can be positive for the animal engaging in that behaviour.’

‘That’s the evolutionary currency – what’s playing out over time is the number of gene copies left behind in offspring,’ Andrade explained.

‘If there’s a behaviour that increases how many gene copies are left, this means more offspring showing the same traits as their parents, and that’s the behaviour we expect to see.’

Posted on; DailyMail>>

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