Ever heard of black widow spiders? The name is no accident: When black widows mate, the females often kill and eat the males. Girls seem to have it considerably better than the boys in the spider world.
We've known this for a while (thus the name), but researchers recently figured out how males sometimes avoid their beloved’s wrath — by dating younger women.
Scientists from Canada’s University of Toronto and Israel’s Ben Gurion University recently discovered that male spiders that mate with juvenile females are less likely to get killed and eaten.
It all started when Dani Baggio, a researcher at Canada’s University of Toronto, noticed a young male spider doing something unexpected: trying to mount a young female spider. Her professor, Maydianne Andrade, was intrigued.
“I told her to watch their activity closely and come back to me if she saw this again,” explained Andrade to National Geographic. “She did. And this time she said: 'I think they are mating.'”
Why is this so unexpected, you ask? (As you look up from yet another tabloid about an older man dating a younger woman.)
For one thing, young female bodies aren’t developed enough to get fertilized, so Lady Evolution wouldn’t like it. At least, that’s what scientists thought, until they hung around and watched the spiders some more.
“I told her to isolate the females and watch to see if they produced viable eggs. She did. And they did,” continued Andrade.
The researchers found other scientists who had observed similar spider action, and they all teamed up to watch a lot of spiders have a lot of sex. (You can watch some yourself in the video below.)
The scientists found that young females were way less likely to kill and devour their mates than older females.
Male spiders face an uphill battle when it comes to dating younger women. They have to approach young females at exactly the right time in their lives, since females that are too young can’t lay eggs. Plus, it’s tough to even locate juvenile female widows — mature female spiders release pheromones to attract males, but juvenile females don’t.
Still, for males that find young lovers, life is great. (And by great, we mean 'Hey, I'm still alive!")
“Immature mating may be a widespread, previously unrecognized mating tactic,” write the study’s authors, “particularly when unmated females are of high reproductive value.”