Saturday, 28 April 2012

For Males Dying to Mate, Only Certain Females Will Do

For some spiders and the praying mantis, mating is a deadly game, with the pipsqueak males often sacrificing themselves in the name of sex. How a male decides which leggy lady is worth his life, and how the female decides whether to scarf him down, is complicated, two new studies show.

This Russian roulette mating strategy is called "sexual cannibalism." The females in species that practice sexual cannibalism sometimes eat their male partners after, or even during, sex. The drivers of this unusual phenomenon are still up in the air, though new research is shedding light on the dynamics between male and female that may leave one of them dead.

Males, it seems, weigh multiple factors when approaching a potential mate.

"You can see it in the approach behavior of the male," said William Brown, an associate professor at the State University of New York in Fredonia and lead researcher on a study about sexual cannibalism in the praying mantis. "There's this conflict between mating and surviving. He's taking this slow, cautious approach, because she is a huge threat to his future offspring."

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