Male spiders catapult each other after mating

(Washington) In some spider species, the males have a valid reason to run away immediately after sex.

Posted at 2:51 p.m

A team of Chinese scientists has discovered that male ‘Philoponella prominens’ catapult themselves immediately after mating to avoid being killed and eaten by their mate.

The spiders use two of their legs to move in a split second, leaning on the female to do so. This technique was first described in a study published Monday in the journal Current Biology.

Making this discovery required the use of high-speed, high-resolution cameras, the lead author of this paper, Shichang Zhang, of Hubei University, told AFP.

Researchers studied sexual selection in this species, which lives in communities of up to 300 individuals.

In 152 of the 155 matings observed, the male catapulted himself away and thus survived the encounter.

The three males that did not move were quickly caught, killed and eaten by their mate.

And 30 males, who prevented the researchers from catapulting themselves, suffered the same fate. The scientists concluded that this mechanism was essential for escaping the females’ sexual cannibalism.

Males can mate up to six times with the same female, leaping away, returning through a woven thread, then mating and removing again.

The jumps performed were impressive, with a top speed averaging 65 centimeters per second and an acceleration of 20G, 20 times the acceleration felt in free fall.

Spiders rotate about 175 times per second in the air.

According to Shichang Zhang, women accurately judge men’s sexual aptitude by their ability to run away.

“Through catapulting, a male can escape the female’s sexual cannibalism, and the female can choose a capable male because kinetic performance could directly correlate with the male’s physical condition,” he explained.

The female spiders have the option of keeping the sperm deposited by a male and choosing whether or not to use it to fertilize their eggs.

According to Shichang Zhang, females are ultimately only allowed to accept sperm from males that successfully catapult themselves. In the future he wants to investigate whether there is actually a connection between these jumps and the mating success.

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