For These Tiny Spiders, It's Sing or Get Served | Deep Look

by Super User, 8 years ago
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Male jumping spiders perform courtship dances that would make Bob Fosse proud. But if they bomb, they can wind up somebody's dinner instead of their mate.

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During courtship, the male jumping spider performs an exuberant dance to get the female’s attention. Like a pint-sized Magic Mike working for twenties, he shimmies from side to side, waves his legs, and flaps his front appendages (called pedipalps) in her direction.

If she likes what she sees, the female may allow him to mate. But things can also go terribly wrong for these eight-legged suitors. She might decide to attack him, or even eat him for lunch. Cannibalism is the result about seven percent of the time.

These mating rituals were first described more than 100 years ago. Their study took on a new dimension, however, when scientists discovered that the males also sing when they attempt to woo their lady loves.

By rubbing together their two body segments, equipped with a comb-shaped instrument, the males create vibrations that travel through the ground. The female spiders can “hear” the male songs through ear-like slits in their legs, called sensilla.

A male spider’s coordination of the dance and the song seems to affect his reproductive success — in other words, his ability to stay alive during this risky courtship trial. But what exactly the signals mean remains mysterious to scientists.

Scientists ultimately hope to understand how a female decides whether she’s looking at a stud — or a dud.

--- Where do jumping spiders get their name?

Jumping spiders don’t spin webs to catch food. They stalk their prey like cats. They use their silk as a drag line while they hop around.

--- What do jumping spiders eat?

Jumping spiders are carnivorous and eat insects like flies, bees, and crickets.

--- Where do jumping spiders live?

A map of jumping spider habitat looks like the whole world! Tropical forests contain the greatest number, but they live just about everywhere, even the Himalayan Mountains.

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