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Animals

Male spiders catapult themselves to avoid being eaten after mating

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By Joe Morgan via SWNS

A species of male spider is able to catapult itself in a split-second to avoid being EATEN by the female after mating.

Orb-weaving spider Philoponella prominems are able to dart away at up to 88cm per second, that's half the length of a full-sized bed, in a blink of an eye.

The male spiders use a joint in their first pair of legs, which has not been described before, to immediately jump away before they are killed and consumed by their female mates.

Researchers discovered this after seeing the few males that did not catapult were promptly captured and killed.

When the researchers prevented males from catapulting, they met the same fate.

Of 155 successful matings they witnessed, 152 survived by catapulting away.

With high-resolution video cameras, speeds ranged from about 30cm per second to almost 90cm per second.

As they soar through the air, the males also spin around 175 times per second on average.

Philoponella prominems occur most often in China, Korea and Japan and belong to a family of spiders that do not contain venom.

Dr. Shichang Zhang, of Hubei University in Wuhan, China, said: "We found that mating was always ended by a catapulting, which is so fast that common cameras could not record the details clearly.

“We observed that males that could not perform the catapulting were cannibalized by the female.

"It suggests that this behavior evolved to fight against female’s sexual cannibalism under strong predation pressure of females.

“Females may use this behavior to judge the quality of a male during mating.

"If a male could not perform catapulting, then kill it, and if a male could perform it multiple times, then accept its sperm."

The research was published in the journal Current Biology.

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