Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Female Spiders Eat Small Males When They Mate

Date:
September 11, 2008
Source:
University of Chicago Press Journals
Summary:
A number of hypotheses have been proposed for why females eat males before or after mating. After looking at a wide range of data, researchers found that sexual cannibalism may not be a complex evolutionary balancing act of costs and benefits but rather a case of a hungry female eating a male when he is small enough to catch.

A female wolf spider, Hogna helluo, consuming a male.
Credit: Shawn M. Wilder

Female spiders are voracious predators and consume a wide range of prey, which sometimes includes their mates. A number of hypotheses have been proposed for why females eat males before or after mating.

Related Articles


Researchers Shawn Wilder and Ann Rypstra from Miami University in Ohio found that the answer may be simpler than previously thought.

Males are more likely to be eaten if they are much smaller than females, which likely affects how easy they are to catch. In one species of spider, Hogna helluo, large males were never consumed while small males were consumed 80% of the time. This result was also confirmed when Wilder and Rypstra examined published data from a wide range of spider species. Males are more likely to be eaten in species where males are small relative to females.

Much research on sexual cannibalism has focused on a few extreme cases involving sexual selection and sperm competition. However, by looking at data on a wide range of spiders, Wilder and Rypstra discovered that the size of the male relative to the female (often referred to as sexual size dimorphism) determines how often sexual cannibalism occurs in a species.

"We were surprised to find that such a simple characteristic such as how small males are relative to females has such a large effect on the frequency of sexual cannibalism," states Shawn Wilder. In many cases, sexual cannibalism may not be a complex balancing act of costs and benefits for males and females but rather a case of a hungry female eating a male when he is small enough to catch.

In an interesting twist, evolution does not appear to be driving this relationship. For example, females would not become larger to consume more males because each male would then be a smaller meal to the larger female and males would not become smaller to be eaten more often because they would not get to mate as often.

Rather, sexual cannibalism may be a byproduct of the evolution of large females and small males in a predatory species.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Chicago Press Journals. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Wilder et al. Sexual Size Dimorphism Predicts the Frequency of Sexual Cannibalism Within and Among Species of Spiders.. The American Naturalist, 2008; 172 (3): 431 DOI: 10.1086/589518

Cite This Page:

University of Chicago Press Journals. "Female Spiders Eat Small Males When They Mate." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 September 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/09/080910165846.htm>.
University of Chicago Press Journals. (2008, September 11). Female Spiders Eat Small Males When They Mate. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 2, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/09/080910165846.htm
University of Chicago Press Journals. "Female Spiders Eat Small Males When They Mate." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/09/080910165846.htm (accessed March 2, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Monday, March 2, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

500 Snakes Surprise Construction Workers In Canada

500 Snakes Surprise Construction Workers In Canada

Newsy (Mar. 2, 2015) Hundreds of snakes, disturbed by a construction project, were relocated to a wildlife rescue association in Canada. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Going Gluten-Free Could Get You A Tax Break

Going Gluten-Free Could Get You A Tax Break

Newsy (Mar. 2, 2015) If a doctor advises you to remove gluten from your diet, you could get a tax deduction on the amount you spend on gluten-free foods. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Zookeepers Copy Animal Poses In Hilarious Viral Photos

Zookeepers Copy Animal Poses In Hilarious Viral Photos

Buzz60 (Mar. 2, 2015) Zookeepers at the Symbio Wildlife Park in Helensburgh, Australia decided to take some of their favorite animal photos and recreate them by posing just like the animals. Jen Markham (@jenmarkham) has the story. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Heavy Toll as Australian Farmers Struggle Through Drought

Heavy Toll as Australian Farmers Struggle Through Drought

AFP (Mar. 2, 2015) Mounting debts, despair and forced repossessions are taking a heavy toll on farmers in parts of Australia suffering from its worst drought in 100 years. Duration: 02:16 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins