Sexual cannibalism is an extreme form of competition between the sexes. In order not to be eaten, the males therefore have to develop strategies to avoid a catastrophic fate after mating. In a spider, males at the end of a thread catapult each other with impressive speed.
There are several mechanisms in the animal kingdom that allow individuals to perform very rapid actions. These concern, for example, the projection of part of their, like the tongue of the chameleon, the jaw of the shark, or the catapult of the whole individual. These actions are known to be associated with predatory behavior but also with flight from predators. However, there is a very special case where animals catapult themselves to avoid their own congeners.
Sexual cannibalism involves the female devouring her mate before, during, or after mating
This is the case withSex, a practice observed in praying mantises and spiders, for example. that means that the female devours her mate before, during, or after mating. To avoid this sad fate, male of the species Philoponella prominens have evolved the ability to move far, far away from the female they have finished mating with.
Survival lies in acrobatics
An international research team has published the analysis of this amazing escape behavior. During their study, the authors observed 155 matings and report that in the end 152 of them were the males females and all survived. The three that did not escape were captured and eaten by the females.
The authors then stopped some males from running away after mating to determine how much ran away. To do this, they placed small brushes about 2 mm long on theby 30 men who could not catapult themselves and were all caught and devoured by their respective partners. This finding is enough to shock readers, but clearly proves that catapulting is a behavior necessary for the survival of the species’ males. P.prominens and that it affects the number of sexual partners they have over the course of their lives, and thus their reproductive success.
One of the elements of success of this throw lies in the speed of action. The authors therefore state that when the mean catapult speed of the male after mating is about 66 cm/s, the record speed of 88.2 cm/s was recorded for one of the males, who appeared to be clinging very hard to his life. The authors explain that males need both of their front legs to do thisDrive; they bend towards the female during mating and suddenly relax when the male catapults himself.
A male catapulted by a female during mating in high speed video (1500 fps) and in normal video (30 fps). © Shichang Zhang
Finally, the authors report that the males are attached by a thread that connects themof the female and that this allows them, when they catapult themselves, to reach this web. This return is in their interest as the male may then return and mate with the female up to six times. In the house of P.prominensin order not to lose your head in the game of love, it is better to be ready to take the big leap.