F unnel-web spiders Agelenopsis pennsylvanica engage in an eye-catching mating ritual, complete with drumming and dance, and alter their behavior depending on what microbes are present on their sexual organs, researchers reported July 29 in Ethology. Male funnel-web spiders sway their abdomens, wave their legs, and pound on their webs to attract female attention. If a female responds to his courtship, the male delivers his sperm into her reproductive organs with appendages called pedipalps and then quickly retreats, as females sometimes devour their mates. The team coated the pedipalps of 20 males and abdomens of 10 females with a custom cocktail of bacteria. Unaltered males took about 4. However, males moved faster if the bacteria-coated female behaved aggressively, perhaps because the threat of attack outweighed the risk of infection, the authors suggest. About half of the unaltered females who mated with bacteria-coated males died after 40 days, but all the bacteria-coated females survived, suggesting the former group may have died of sexually transmitted infections. Spicer et al. Nicoletta Lanese is an intern at The Scientist. Email her at nlanese the-scientist.
The idea of a spider crawling in bed with you during sex? But the Spider sex position? More on this shortly.
Dishing on the cannibalistic sex life of spiders. Oh yeah. For some nephilid spiders, mating is deathly serious. During the brief copulation, the giant females shove off the smaller males and gobble them up. This poses males with a problem: How does one mate and survive? Turns out, evolution has given them an escape strategy. It's emasculating, to say the least. A team of international spider sex researchers say the male can avoid death by breaking off his palp--that is, the sexual organ that pumps sperm. Palp stays put; male bails. It's a bizarre example of remote fertilization.