Spiders play for keeps.
I was browsing journals the other day trying to figure out where to send a paper when I came across a paper called Genital damage in the orb-web spider increases paternity success. I guess I have a weird sense of curiosity because I had to take a look and see what they were talking about.
When females of a species mate with several males, evolution can develop some pretty weird adaptations in males competing to fertilize the egg. More numerous, faster or cooperative sperm can improve the chances of their sperm reaching the egg first. Another alternative is to try to prevent other males from mating with that female.
As a way to interfere with other males, many species develop sticky semen to form copulatory plugs blocking other sperm access to the egg. I had heard of this before but what I didn’t know was that some insects have taken this method to an extreme and actually leaves pieces of their genitals behind in the female. These pieces had been shown to protect the males’ sperm against competition by blocking rivals from mating with the female. Similar genital breakage had been observed in spiders but since spider females like to eat their mates and males have two penis-like organs, called pedipalps, scientists debated whether a spider sacrificing one of his genitalia could be a sort of quick release to allow the males to live another day and mate again.
And you thought we were rough! There’s even some spider porn pictures there, check it out!