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New study shows Wolf Spiders have regular threesomes

Wednesday, March 1, 2017 15:32
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New research set to be published in the Journal of Arachnology has shown that wolf spiders often engage in three-way sexual intercourse as part of the species’ normal mating cycle.

While the study team couldn’t speculate on whether or not the spiders derive added pleasure from engaging in ménage à trios, they did say male spiders sometimes join in on an already-copulating male-female couple to save energy typically spent on courtship rituals.

Females are able to accommodate two male sexual partners as they have paired reproductive organs, a fact that suggests ménage à trios are indeed a factor in the species’ proliferation.

In a standard wolf spider courtship, male spiders use a blend of specific visual displays and vibrations to win over likely mates. If the female is not impressed, she may kill and eat the suitor. However, if a different male effectively woos a female, an opportunistic male could sneak up and become an active participant in the process, ideally impregnating the female with his genetic material.

Many Benefits for the Spiders

The kinky approach actually includes several benefits for the spiders. To begin with, interloping males probably save energy by passing up courtship activities. Additionally, courtship exhibitions can draw in predators, so diligent interlopers may lessen their likelihood of being eaten. Finally, threesomes appear to decrease the male-on-male fighting and wrestling that often takes place when male spiders contend for mates.

However, a wolf spider ménage à trois probably takes a great deal of energy and in all likelihood reduces the effective shipping of sperm. According to the study authors, during threesomes, males grappled, missed insertions, mistakenly (?) inserted into the other male and knocked off the other male during insemination. The researchers said they also saw an interloping male lose a leg to the proceedings.

Incidentally, all of this grappling could bring about extended mating sessions, which can increase the female spider’s cannibalism tendencies. Wolf spiders generally invest between 25 and 90 minutes mating, but one of the threesomes seen in the study lasted more than 4 hours. These lengthy mating sessions can, of course, attract predators.

The study team said they expect to continue investigating spider threesomes, including their significance to the species.

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Image credit: Matthew Persons

The post New study shows Wolf Spiders have regular threesomes appeared first on Redorbit.

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Source: http://www.redorbit.com/news/science/1113417530/new-study-shows-wolf-spiders-have-regular-threesomes/

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