Prolonged milk provisioning in a jumping spider

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Science  30 Nov 2018:
Vol. 362, Issue 6418, pp. 1052-1055
DOI: 10.1126/science.aat3692

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Spider nursery

Mammals produce milk to feed their offspring, and maternal care often continues well after the young can forage for themselves. Though other cases of milk-like secretions have been found, this combination of ongoing maternal care has largely been considered a uniquely mammalian trait. Chen et al. describe an ant-mimicking jumping spider that secretes a nutritious milk-like substance on which its young offspring are entirely dependent. The spider also continues to care for the spiderlings as they mature and become independent. Thus, this type of maternal care may be more widespread than has been assumed.

Science, this issue p. 1052


Lactation is a mammalian attribute, and the few known nonmammal examples have distinctly different modalities. We document here milk provisioning in a jumping spider, which compares functionally and behaviorally to lactation in mammals. The spiderlings ingest nutritious milk droplets secreted from the mother’s epigastric furrow until the subadult stage. Milk is indispensable for offspring survival in the early stages and complements their foraging in later stages. Maternal care, as for some long-lived vertebrates, continues after the offspring reach maturity. Furthermore, a female-biased adult sex ratio is acquired only when the mother is present. These findings demonstrate that mammal-like milk provisioning and parental care for sexually mature offspring have also evolved in invertebrates, encouraging a reevaluation of their occurrence across the animal kingdom, especially in invertebrates.

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