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The End of the Spider
Posted: 17th August 2007

Wasp Spider - Photo © Copyright 2007 Peter Nicholson
Photo: Peter Nicholson

If you were to come back as a wild animal next lifetime what would it be? Weird question I know, but just imagine it for a moment. What would you really like to be? A wolf, a dolphin, maybe an eagle? Wouldn't it be great to have the choice? Sure it's a risky business being a wild animal on planet earth right now, but it could also be a lot of fun... provided you can keep clear of those crazy humans.

Of course you can probably think of a few animals you wouldn't want to be too. A dung beetle perhaps, or one of those poor Cornish basking sharks. Imagine being a basking shark these days. Every time you swim near the shore a nature documentary team jumps in the water with you and pokes a long lens in your mouth. Man, those sharks must get cheesed off with TV presenters swimming in their breakfast and having cameras poked in their faces all day.

If you were to ask me which animal I definitely wouldn't want to be then top of the list would be a male wasp spider. The male wasp spider is nothing short of a martyr. Here's an animal which makes an eye-watering sacrifice to ensure the future of his species.

It's well known that male spiders take great risk when mating with female spiders. The female sometimes puts an end to the affair by attacking her partner, killing and eating him, unless he manages to escape in time.

In the case of the wasp spider it's the male who puts an end to the situation - quite literally. When a male wasp spider finds a potential partner, he attracts her by shaking her web. The female raises herself on her long legs, so that the male can creep under her body. The male then inserts the tip of his transformed leg, filled with sperm, into the female’s sexual orifice.

Everything seems to be going fine, until the male detaches himself from the female. As he does so the end of his genital breaks off. The tip of his tackle remains in the sexual orifice, like a cork plugging it up.

There are a couple of possible explanations as to why the male would do this.

The first is that detaching part of the genital organ could help him escape from the female's murderous attack.

The second is that the plug could be a mechanism to prevent other males fertilising his female. Female wasp spiders have several male partners, so the plug effectively blocks other sperm from fertilising the eggs.

Related Links:
Spider Identification Chart
UK Safari Wasp Spider Page
UK Safari Spider Section
UK Safari News

 © 2006 G. Bradley. All Rights Reserved