Man eater

Watch: Male spiders catapult themselves to avoid being eaten after sex

It’s just a fling!

Shichang Zhang

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When it comes to sex, female orb-weaving spiders have the upper hand.

Females are larger than their male partners, and also cannibalize males shortly after mating.

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So how does an itsy bitsy male spider avoid being eaten?

In one species of orb-weavers, Philoponella prominens, males will launch themselves off their female partners shortly after mating.

Researchers described this behavior for the first time in the journal Current Biology.

Shichang Zhang

At normal speed, the jump happens in the blink of an eye.

When slowed down, it’s easier to see the male pry itself from the female and take a leap of survival.

Shinchang Zhang

Shichang Zhang

Researchers hypothesize that the males keep their legs pressed against the female while mating to create pressure.

Shichang Zhang

When released from intercourse, they quickly extend their legs and use that built-up tension to catapult their bodies.

Akio Tanikawa via Wikimedia Commons

The strategy is extremely effective to avoid becoming a snack.

Of 155 total matings recorded in the study, 152 male spiders lept from their partners and successfully escaped the females’ hungry mouths.

Akio Tanikawa via Wikimedia Commons

The three males that did not leap were killed and consumed.

And when researchers prevented another 30 male spiders from catapulting, they also succumbed to their deaths.

This mechanism could be a litmus test for female spiders looking for suitable mates.

“Females may use this behavior to judge the quality of a male during mating,” study author Shichang Zhang said in a press release.

Shichang Zhang

Shichang Zhang

If males are able to catapult multiple times, it could be a sign to females that their partners are of quality stock.

And if not, well, at least she gets dinner.