The Loh Down On Science

Spidermate

If you think human dating ain’t pretty, you haven’t seen spiders!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

When the species Nephila pilipes decides to mate, it’s a crowded affair. The large females are inundated by the attentions of many smaller males. Which means the females should be able to pick and choose who becomes the spider-daddy.

But some males like to game the system by, uh, severing their own genitalia during copulation and plugging up the female, literally sealing the deal on their fatherhood.

Not to be outdone, the females, too, create their own genital-blocking plugs. Recently, researchers from the Smithsonian Institution decided to find the origins of this … impediment.

To do so, the team staged laboratory mating sessions. What they observed was, well, mating. What they didn’t see was how and when the mysterious plug appeared.

Turns out, females were creating the plug later during egg-laying. This was to prevent any latecomers from getting in on the action.

Come on, arachnids, how about simply hanging a “Do not disturb” sign out there? Might be simpler.

The Loh Down on Science is produced by LDOS Media Lab, with 89.3 KPCC Pasadena. And made possible by the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.


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