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Male spiders have better chance of fathering offspring in return for good gifts to potential female mates

Date:
October 24, 2013
Source:
Aarhus University
Summary:
If a male spider goes to the trouble of finding a good gift, wraps it up nicely in spider silk and offers it to a female he would like to mate, he has far better chances of fathering her offspring than if he skipped the present. This is shown in new research, where researchers studied what it means for female spiders to receive gifts.

This photo shows a female with a white gift, and a male about to transfer sperm to the sperm storage organs under the rear part of the female’s body. The male has silky threads going to the gift from the silk glands at the rear of its abdomen. This enables the male to remain attached to the gift.
Credit: Allan Lau

If a male spider goes to the trouble of finding a good gift, wraps it up nicely in spider silk and offers it to a female he would like to mate, he has far better chances of fathering her offspring than if he skipped the present. This is shown in new research from Aarhus University's Spiderlab, where researchers studied what it means for female spiders to receive gifts.

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Culinary gifts

The male's nuptial gift consists of something deliciously edible, such as a fly, which he wraps up nicely in white silk prior to offering it to the female. He can then transfer sperm while she is eating the gift. If he remembers to bring a gift, he is allowed to provide her with more sperm than if he forgot, and the duration of the copulation is longer.

Sperm 'receptacle'

When a male has mated with a female spider, the sperm is stored in a special organ from which it can be released when the female has eggs to be fertilised. The researchers discovered that the female stores more sperm in this organ if the male has brought a gift, and he is therefore more likely to be the father of her offspring. It can thus be demonstrated that the female is capable of regulating how much sperm she stores, enabling her to favour males that provide her with culinary gifts.

Gifts reveal resourceful males

The female presumably prefers sperm from the gift bearer because it shows that he is resourceful and good at hunting and catching food. If these are good hereditary traits, the female can transfer the qualities to her offspring by favouring the male. The female spider thus selects sperm from the males she prefers, and has the benefit of passing on their good characteristics to her male offspring.

The study was made on the Pisaura mirabilis species (nursery web spider). Whether or not there is scientific justification of any advantages in providing human females with gifts was not mentioned in the study!


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. M. J. Albo, T. Bilde, G. Uhl. Sperm storage mediated by cryptic female choice for nuptial gifts. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 2013; 280 (1772): 20131735 DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2013.1735

Cite This Page:

Aarhus University. "Male spiders have better chance of fathering offspring in return for good gifts to potential female mates." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 October 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131024121929.htm>.
Aarhus University. (2013, October 24). Male spiders have better chance of fathering offspring in return for good gifts to potential female mates. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 25, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131024121929.htm
Aarhus University. "Male spiders have better chance of fathering offspring in return for good gifts to potential female mates." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131024121929.htm (accessed January 25, 2015).

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