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First law of the black widow kingdom - Don't get old

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
May 6th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Conventional wisdom says the female black widow is fond of devouring her mate during his moment of post-coital bliss. However, new research indicates that sometimes, the roles get reversed.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - It's tough to be a male spider, especially of the black widow species. The moment you fulfill your natural obligation to reproduce, you become your spouse's meal. It's a short and brutal life, and so infamous the species is dubbed the "black widow."

However, researchers who wanted to see just how true this legend was, followed several spiders in a laboratory, only to discover a shocking result.

Sometimes the females became the lunch.

Scientists from Masaryk University in the Czech Republic, studied pairs of black widow spiders in the lab. In their studies, they found a gruesome exception to the female-devours-male rule. Male black widows, typically those which hatch in the summer instead of spring tend to be larger and more aggressive, and are more likely to eat the females they encounter before mating.

The older the female was, the more likely she was to be killed and eaten. Males did not kill females with whom they mated.

This suggests male black widows are choosy about their mates, with a distinct preference for younger females. Those that don't measure up are likely to end up becoming lunch as opposed to spider-moms.

Researchers say not even size or virginity appeared to play a factor in whether or not they got cannibalized by their dates.

Such behavior has not been seen in other spider species, at least not as of yet.

The study is detailed in the current issue of Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology.

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