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article imageDwarf spiders try to keep paternity against rivals

By Tim Sandle     Jun 14, 2014 in Science
Male dwarf spiders deploy sperm-blocking plugs, according to a new study. The objective is to thwart the reproductive chances of their mate’s subsequent suitors.
These plugs, deposited by male dwarf spiders (Oedothorax retusus), are inserted into the copulatory ducts of females straight after the mating ritual. The reason is an attempt to to block fertilizations by other male spiders. Dwarf spiders are sometimes called money spiders.
Further analysis has revealed that the mating plugs are composed of a liquid material that hardens with time to block access to females’ sperm storage organs shortly after they have copulated. In laboratory studies, when the science team mated females bearing such plugs to subsequent males, they discovered that only about 32 percent resulted in successful copulation. Moreover, the chances of a rival male’s sperm reaching the sperm storage organ of the female decreased the longer the plug had to dry and harden in the genital openings.
This is the outcome of new research conducted by Katrin Kunz of the Zoological Institute and Museum in Greifswald. In a research brief, Kunz has written: "The mating plug in the dwarf spider clearly functions as a mechanical obstacle to rival males. Mating plugs are a powerful mechanical safeguard whose efficacy varies with plug size and age."
The research has been published in the journal Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology. The paper is titled "Do the size and age of mating plugs alter their efficacy in protecting paternity?"
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