Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Picky male black widow spiders prefer well-fed virgins

Date:
April 23, 2014
Source:
University of Toronto
Summary:
New research shows that male black widow spiders prefer their female mates to be well-fed virgins -- a rare example of mate preference by male spiders. The study found they can tell whether a potential mate is well-fed and unmated by pheromones released by females.

New UTSC research shows that male black widow spiders prefer their female mates to be well-fed virgins, revealing a rare example of mate preference by male spiders.
Credit: peter_waters / Fotolia

New UTSC research shows that male black widow spiders prefer their female mates to be well-fed virgins, revealing a rare example of mate preference by male spiders.

Related Articles


The study, authored by UTSC post-doc Emily MacLeod and Maydianne Andrade, a professor in UTSC's Department of Biological Sciences, found in both controlled field studies and the wild that males overwhelmingly chose to mate with well-fed, unmated females. They also found male black widows can tell whether a potential mate is well-fed and unmated by pheromones released by females.

"This near unanimous preference by males for well-fed mates using only phermonal cues has not been documented in any other spider species," says MacLeod. "These are not visual or auditory cues they are picking up but smells they are sensing, often from far away."

Macleod says the reason males show a strong preference for females who smell like they've eaten a lot is that mating with a fatter female may result in more offspring than with less well-fed females.

"Females who have been able to eat a lot and obtain a lot of food resources can transfer those resources into egg production," says MacLeod. "It's not just that they are healthier but that they are more fertile because they can produce more egg sacks."

Another reason for male choice may be a simple matter of survival. "It's important to remember that when a female eats a lot of prey, she's less likely to eat a potential mate," says Andrade.

The study focused on Latrodectus Hesperus, a species of black widow native to western North America including parts of Canada.Theseblack widows are not generally cannibalistic but males are much smaller than females, meaning if a female is hungry her drive to feed will be greater than her drive to reproduce. "If you have this little food item dancing on a web you may as well eat it if you don't have energy to produce eggs," adds MacLeod.

The existence of male choice in nature is unusual because of the costs associated with being picky. In a lab environment male spiders can afford to be choosey, but in nature there are risks in spending time, energy and resources finding a mate, says Andrade.

The study also shows there may be more involved to mating preference than a mere matter of what's available. "It shows that males aren't just promiscuous sperm packages, in fact they can go to great lengths to exercise choice in a mate," says MacLeod.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Toronto. The original article was written by Don Campbell. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Emily C. MacLeod, Maydianne C.B. Andrade. Strong, convergent male mate choice along two preference axes in field populations of black widow spiders. Animal Behaviour, 2014; 89: 163 DOI: 10.1016/j.anbehav.2013.12.023

Cite This Page:

University of Toronto. "Picky male black widow spiders prefer well-fed virgins." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 April 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140423132647.htm>.
University of Toronto. (2014, April 23). Picky male black widow spiders prefer well-fed virgins. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140423132647.htm
University of Toronto. "Picky male black widow spiders prefer well-fed virgins." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140423132647.htm (accessed December 22, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Monday, December 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Christmas Kissing Good for Health

Christmas Kissing Good for Health

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Dec. 22, 2014) Scientists in Amsterdam say couples transfer tens of millions of microbes when they kiss, encouraging healthy exposure to bacteria. Suzannah Butcher reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Brain-Dwelling Tapeworm Reveals Genetic Secrets

Brain-Dwelling Tapeworm Reveals Genetic Secrets

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Dec. 22, 2014) Cambridge scientists have unravelled the genetic code of a rare tapeworm that lived inside a patient's brain for at least four year. Researchers hope it will present new opportunities to diagnose and treat this invasive parasite. Matthew Stock reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
New Fish Species Discovered, Setting Record for World's Deepest

New Fish Species Discovered, Setting Record for World's Deepest

Buzz60 (Dec. 22, 2014) A new species of fish is discovered living five miles beneath the ocean surface, making it the deepest living fish on earth. Jen Markham has the story. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Earthworms Provide Cancer-Fighting Bacteria

Earthworms Provide Cancer-Fighting Bacteria

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Dec. 21, 2014) Polish scientists isolate bacteria from earthworm intestines which they say may be used in antibiotics and cancer treatments. Suzannah Butcher reports. Video provided by Reuters
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