To avoid becoming a post-coital snack, male spiders leap away from the female. Insert obligatory one night stand or walk of shame joke here. Scientists recorded 155 instances of normal orb-weaving spider sex for this study. 152 times the male spider jumped away immediately after. Female spiders ate the three that did not make a hasty exit.
The scientists used slow motion cameras because the male spiders jump so fast normal frame rates can’t capture it. Add that to the growing list of spider facts I wish I didn’t know. The scientists found that it’s no normal jump. The male spiders fold their first pair of legs in a certain way while mating, allowing them to catapult away as soon it’s over.
Some male spiders mate with the same female repeatedly, like true adrenaline junkies. They have a “safety line” of sorts in case they decide to return. The silk strand allows them to jump but remain nearby.
The researchers blocked each parameter in turn. When the male spiders weren’t able to jump away, they were eaten. If they couldn’t set up a silk safety line, they courted the female but did not come close enough to mate. When scientists removed the first pair of legs (their jumping legs), male spiders did not mate. If they removed a different pair of legs, the spiders mated and were able to catapult.
I’m no fan of spiders and I love the scientific method, but at some point, just let them do their thing. The peer-reviewed journal Current Biology published the study. Video of the leap, which we saw on Boing Boing, is part of the research paper.
Melissa is Nerdist’s science & technology staff writer. She also moderates “science of” panels at conventions and co-hosts Star Warsologies, a podcast about science and Star Wars. Follow her on Twitter @melissatruth.