Planet Earth

So You Think You Can Dance: Spider Edition

DiscoblogBy Brett IsraelNov 3, 2009 12:06 AM


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If you thought going to the club was bad, imagine having to dance in front of potential mates for over an hour and a half, lest they will eat you. Male Australian redback spiders, members of the black widow family, pay the ultimate price if their mating dance doesn't impress. Here's how it works, via

Males, which are just 1 percent to 2 percent of a female's body weight, dance about the web of a potential mate, plucking at the threads and sending out vibrations. Once the male redback has performed an adequate dance, the female will allow him to mount her and insert one of his two palps, or copulatory organs, into one of a pair of sperm storage organs. The male then somersaults to place its abdomen directly above his mate's fangs. That's perfect positioning for the female to begin devouring the male's body.

To avoid being gobbled up by the female halfway through mating, males need to dance for 100 minutes, according to new research. But the dancing males better have a good internal clock. Females can't determine the source of courtship, so if the dancer exceeds the optimal time, a slick male could sneak in a mate with the female while the dancer ends up alone on the web. For a video of the life-or-death dance, click on over to the Discovery News. Related Content: Discoblog: Egad! Oldest Spider Web Dates Back to Dinosaur Era Discoblog: Female Spiders Attracted to Ultraviolet Bling DISCOVER: Stalking SpidersImage: Ken Jones

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