Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Black Widows Wreck Mates' Webs, Get Away With It

by Elizabeth Palermo, Associate Editor | July 17, 2015 07:03am ET

Picture this: You go on a few dates with a guy and then, one day, he comes over and starts demolishing your home. If you were a human female, you'd probably break things off. But you might feel differently about your boyfriend's destructive behavior if you were a female black widow spider, a new study suggests.

Researchers found that black widow males destroy large sections of their mates' webs in order to ward off potential rivals. Then, they do something even weirder; they bundle up the part of the web they destroyed and cover it with their own sticky silk. And female black widows don't do anything to stop their mates' home-wrecking behavior, according to the study by researchers at Simon Fraser University in Canada.

Why would a spider as infamous (and venomous) as a black widow let a mate tear her web apart? Well, it's pretty simple, the researchers said. The female spiders might be so preoccupied getting busy with the males they like best, they can't keep all their pesky suitors at bay. As such, they may be letting their partners fight off other males for them. For male black widows, torn up nests are a turn-off and can keep the males from coming too close to potential mates, the study found. 

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