Sexual Selection for Male Sacrifice in the Australian Redback Spider

Science  05 Jan 1996:
Vol. 271, Issue 5245, pp. 70-72
DOI: 10.1126/science.271.5245.70


During copulation, male redback spiders (Latrodectus hasselti: Theridiidae) position themselves above the female's jaws. This apparent male complicity in sexual cannibalism is favored by sexual selection because cannibalized spiders receive two paternity advantages. First, cannibalized males copulated longer and fertilized more eggs than those that survived copulation. Second, females were more likely to reject subsequent suitors after consuming their first mate. These results represent empirical evidence for male copulatory suicide as an adaptive behavior.

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