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All's fair in love and spiders

Gentlemen, please take a moment to be thankful that you are not an Australian redback spider.

Just one in five bachelor redbacks ever finds a lady redback to call his own. If he's lucky enough to get that far, just as his search comes to an end and mating begins, she eats him. Alive. While they are mating. NOVA scienceNOW covered this gruesome seduction, and explained its evolutionary utility, in a profile of University of Toronto evolutionary biologist Maydianne Andrade. After all, if you only get to mate once, you had better be sure the mother of your spider babies isn't going to go hungry.

Now, Andrade and her colleagues have uncovered a fiendish new detail in this strange romance. To earn the right to be devoured, the male redback has to perform a prolonged (100 minutes, minimum) courtship ritual. If his wooing isn't up to snuff, his would-be partner will eat him (are you sensing a theme here?) without mating and move on to the next suitor. 

The worst news of all for an upstanding male redback is that a nasty "sneaker" male who wants to skip the courtship rigamarole will sometimes shadow a stronger suitor, wait for him finish his romancing, then slip in and take the lady redback for himself. Kind of like Cyrano de Bergerac, but with spiders. And cannibalism.

Yet more proof that good guys never win--but at least they might not get eaten.

The folks at Nature have this all on video.


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