Spiders use blood perfume to attract mates
Jumping spider seeks out bloodsucking prey, giving it a scent that makes it more attractive to potential mates.
Tue, Oct 27, 2009 at 01:55 PM
Photo: Robert R. Jackson
They don’t want to suck your blood — they just want to smell like it. Researchers have found that jumping spiders prefer bloodsucking prey because the scent of the blood helps them attract potential mates.
"It's what's inside the prey that makes the spider more attractive," said Fiona Cross, a spider biologist at the University in Christchurch, New Zealand.
"It might be like if we all gave off an odor after eating chocolates. It would only be the people who ate the chocolates with particular centers who smelled particularly attractive. Weird."
Cross and her research team found that the jumping spider Evarcha culicivora seeks out mosquitoes engorged with blood rather than those that were fed sugar or flower nectar.
The researchers believe that potential mates are attracted to the blood-fed spiders because it indicates that they are adept at catching high-quality food, a trait that could be passed on to offspring.
And the benefits of eating mosquitoes aren’t confined to the sex lives of spiders — they can help humans, too, by helping to control blood-borne disease. The jumping spiders have a particular affinity for mosquitoes infested with deadly malaria, which kills over one million people annually.
Scientists hope that this research will help convince people who live near Lake Victoria, Africa's largest lake, to allow the harmless native Evarcha culicivora spider to live in their homes. Widespread presence of these spiders could decrease the number blood-fed mosquitoes that leave the house and infect people with malaria.