Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Paying for sex and 'playing dead' - the deceitful gift-giving spider

Male nursery web spiders (Pisaura mirabilis) prepare silk-wrapped gifts to give to potential mates. Most gifts contain insects, but some gifts are inedible plant seeds or empty exoskeletons left after the prey has already been eaten (presumably by the male himself!).

Males will also 'play dead' if a female moves away and then attempt to re-establish mating. New research published in BioMed Central's open access journal BMC Evolutionary Biology examines the reproductive success of deceitful males and shows that females are not impressed by worthless gifts.

This is a male nursery web spider (Pisaura mirabilis). Credit: Maria J Albo

Male spiders were provided with either a potential gift of a fly, or a worthless item, such as a cotton wool ball, a dry flower head, a prey leftover (previously eaten housefly), or no gift at all. All the gifts were approximately the same size, so the females would not be able to tell what the gift was without unwrapping it. Males that offered any gift were more likely to successfully mate than males without. However the length of time the females allowed males with worthless gifts to spend transferring sperm was shorter than those with edible gifts (and even shorter for those with no gift at all!).

It appears that both male and female spiders are apparently able to assess the value of the gift and modify their behavior accordingly. Not only did the female spiders end mating sooner with an inedible gift, but male death feigning (thanatosis), which is triggered by the female attempting to end mating and run away with the gift, occurred in half of the matings involving an edible gift, but only once with a worthless gift. Similarly males and females were sometimes seen fighting over edible gifts, but never for a worthless gift.
Maria Albo who led the research explained, "The evolution of male deceit involves a complex equation of costs and benefits. It costs the males to find and wrap a gift, but these costs can be reduced if the male does not have to first catch his gift, or gives one that has already been eaten. The benefit of the gift is longer mating, which leads to more sperm being transferred, and potentially a higher number of offspring. However, the females are wise to deception and terminate mating early for worthless gifts."

She continued, "The final results show that the number of eggs hatching was lower if the female had not received a gift, but there was little difference between females who had received an edible or inedible gift. The success of cheating probably explains why both strategies have co-evolved and are maintained in the population."
Media Contact
Dr Hilary Glover
Scientific Press Officer, BioMed Central
Tel: 44-20-3192-2370
Notes to Editors
1. Worthless donations: male deception and female counter play in a nuptial gift-giving spider. Maria J Albo, Gudrun Winther, Cristina Tuni, Søren Toft and Trine Bilde. BMC Evolutionary Biology (in press)

Please name the journal in any story you write. If you are writing for the web, please link to the article. All articles are available free of charge, according to BioMed Central's open access policy.

Article citation and URL available on request at on the day of publication.

2. BMC Evolutionary Biology is an Open Access, peer-reviewed online journal that considers articles on all aspects of molecular and non-molecular evolution of all organisms, as well as phylogenetics and palaeontology.

3. BioMed Central ( is an STM (Science, Technology and Medicine) publisher which has pioneered the open access publishing model. All peer-reviewed research articles published by BioMed Central are made immediately and freely accessible online, and are licensed to allow redistribution and reuse. BioMed Central is part of Springer Science+Business Media, a leading global publisher in the STM sector.

Dr Hilary Glover | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Novel mechanisms of action discovered for the skin cancer medication Imiquimod
21.10.2016 | Technische Universität München

nachricht Second research flight into zero gravity
21.10.2016 | Universität Zürich

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>