Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Reversal of the Black Widow myth: Some male spiders prefer to eat old females rather than mate with them

Date:
May 6, 2013
Source:
Springer Science+Business Media
Summary:
The Black Widow spider gets its name from the popular belief that female spiders eat their male suitors after mating. However, a new study has shown that the tendency to consume a potential mate is also true of some types of male spider. The study finds that male spiders of the Micaria sociabilis species are more likely to eat the females than be eaten.

New research by Lenka Sentenska and Stano Pekar from Masaryk University in the Czech Republic finds that male spiders of the Micaria sociabilis species are more likely to eat the females than be eaten.
Credit: Image courtesy of Springer Science+Business Media

The Black Widow spider gets its name from the popular belief that female spiders eat their male suitors after mating. However, a new study has shown that the tendency to consume a potential mate is also true of some types of male spider. The study by Lenka Sentenska and Stano Pekar from Masaryk University in the Czech Republic finds that male spiders of the Micaria sociabilis species are more likely to eat the females than be eaten. The paper, published in Springer's journal Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, outlines possible reasons for this behavior.

In nature, female choice of mate is commonly seen as the overriding factor affecting male mating success. Sexual cannibalism is a form of female mate choice with low-quality mates more likely to be cannibalized. However, there is not as much evidence about how males may sometimes dictate the choice of partner. The researchers suggest that in the Micaria sociabilis species, reverse cannibalism seen may be a type of male mate choice.

The researchers collected male and female Micaria sociabilis spiders over a two-year period and studied their behavior by mixing males and females of the species at different time points. All spiders were well fed to discount cannibalism due to hunger. The authors observed what happened when they paired young adult male spiders with single female spiders either from the same generation (young female) or from another generation (old female). By pairing males with females of different size, age and mating status, the researchers hoped to be able to identify whether the reversed form of sexual cannibalism was an adaptive mechanism for male mate choice.

Their study found that cannibalism took place early after the first contact and before any mating took place. The researchers also observed that reverse cannibalism differed significantly, depending on what month it was -- most of the incidents were in July. Males from the summer generation tended to be bigger than males from the spring generation and they were more cannibalistic. This would suggest that male aggression may be related to male size.

The authors noted that the highest frequency of reverse cannibalism occurred when these larger, young males from the summer generation met old females from the previous spring generation. This suggests they may have based their choice on female age. Female body size, even though considered to be a sign of quality, did not affect rates of cannibalism. The authors also noted no difference in male cannibalization of females who had previously mated or virgin females. This evidence demonstrates that in some species and some cases, the males make a very clear choice about who they will mate with.

The authors remark: "Our study provides an insight into an unusual mating system, which differs significantly from the general model. Even males may choose their potential partners and apparently, in some cases, they can present their choice as extremely as females do by cannibalizing unpreferred mates."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Springer Science+Business Media. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Lenka Sentenskα, Stano Pekαr. Mate with the young, kill the old: reversed sexual cannibalism and male mate choice in the spider Micaria sociabilis (Araneae: Gnaphosidae). Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 2013; DOI: 10.1007/s00265-013-1538-1

Cite This Page:

Springer Science+Business Media. "Reversal of the Black Widow myth: Some male spiders prefer to eat old females rather than mate with them." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 May 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130506095118.htm>.
Springer Science+Business Media. (2013, May 6). Reversal of the Black Widow myth: Some male spiders prefer to eat old females rather than mate with them. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130506095118.htm
Springer Science+Business Media. "Reversal of the Black Widow myth: Some male spiders prefer to eat old females rather than mate with them." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130506095118.htm (accessed July 24, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Stone Fruit Listeria Scare Causes Sweeping Recall

Stone Fruit Listeria Scare Causes Sweeping Recall

Newsy (July 22, 2014) — The Wawona Packing Company has issued a voluntary recall on the stone fruit it distributes due to a possible Listeria outbreak. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Michigan Plant's Goal: Flower and Die

Michigan Plant's Goal: Flower and Die

AP (July 22, 2014) — An 80-year-old agave plant, which is blooming for the first and only time at a University of Michigan conservatory, will die when it's done (July 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Huge Schizophrenia Study Finds Dozens Of New Genetic Causes

Huge Schizophrenia Study Finds Dozens Of New Genetic Causes

Newsy (July 22, 2014) — The 83 new genetic markers could open dozens of new avenues for schizophrenia treatment research. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
CDC Head Concerned About a Post-Antibiotic Era

CDC Head Concerned About a Post-Antibiotic Era

AP (July 22, 2014) — Sounding alarms about the growing threat of antibiotic resistance, CDC Director Tom Frieden warned Tuesday if the global community does not confront the problem soon, the world will be living in a devastating post-antibiotic era. (July 22) Video provided by AP
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:
from the past week

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