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article imageHow to keep a female spider happy? A gift-wrapped present

By Tim Sandle     Feb 8, 2014 in Environment
What is the best way for a male spider to mate with a female spider? Bringing along food wrapped in silk does the trick, according to a new study.
According to research published in the journal Naturwissenschaften ("Silk wrapping of nuptial gifts as visual signal for female attraction in a crepuscular spider"), female nursery web spiders (Pisaura mirabilis) prefers sperm from males that bring her a nuptial gift, like a meal. In another spider species, called (Paratrechalea ornata), females prefer the prey that males bring to be well-wrapped in silk.
With these spiders, during courtship, the male presents the female with a food item—called a nuptial gift—and as she feeds, he deftly transfers his sperm into her.
These findings were revealed by research carried out by scientists from the Instituto de Investigaciones Biologicas Clemente Estable in Uruguay. For their research, the scientists collected P. ornata spiders from the Santa Lucía River. They painted the mouthparts of some male spiders white to simulate carrying silk-wrapped prey and found that females touched and remained face-to-face with the painted males more than unpainted males.
Commenting on the research, lead author Mariana Trillo said in a research note: "Females evaluate the physical condition of a male based on his silk wrapping performance, and how the gifts he brings look." It seems that if sex is a contract, the males are aware of the case made clear by females: no meal, no deal.
More about Spider, Female, Widow, Silk, webs
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