Single spider dads caring for eggs suffer no disadvantages despite parenting costs

Oct 10, 2012
Caring male (bottom) and female (top) of the harvestman Iporangaia pustulosa interact on an egg clutch. Credit: Dr. Gustavo Requena

Single fatherhood is a challenge many arachnids undertake, guarding eggs laid by females despite the costs to their own health and mating benefits, but the news may not be all bad for these dads.

New research now shows that, in one species of spiders, males exclusively responsible for guarding eggs actually enjoy survival benefits rather than suffer losses to health or mating privileges. The study, published Oct. 10 in the open access journal by Gustavo Santos Requena and colleagues from the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil, evaluates the costs and benefits of exclusive paternal care, the rarest form of parental investment in nature, in the harvestman spider Iporangaia pustulosa.

The researchers tracked spiders in the forests of southeastern Brazil over the course of a year to observe how caring behavior in males affected their chances of survival or body condition. Though caring males feed very rarely and lose body condition while guarding eggs, the authors found that these spiders suffered no long-term decrease in fitness compared to females or non-caring males. Their during the caring period also makes them less likely to be eaten by predators, reducing their mortality risk. The authors also suggest that providing females cost-free care for their offspring might make caring males more attractive to females, thereby improving their chances for .

According to the authors, their results suggest that the reduction in , combined with the genetic advantages of improving survival of their offspring, may have played important roles in favoring the evolution of paternal care in insects.

Explore further: Archaeological, genetic evidence expands views of domestication

More information: Requena GS, Buzatto BA, Martins EG, Machado G (2012) Paternal Care Decreases Foraging Activity and Body Condition, but Does Not Impose Survival Costs to Caring Males in a Neotropical Arachnid. PLoS ONE 7(10): e46701. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0046701

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Discerning males remain faithful

Apr 24, 2012

Discerning males remain faithful ... if you are a spider. Sex for male orb web spiders (Argiope bruennichi) is a two shot affair since the act of mating destroys their genitalia. If they survive being eaten ...

Surviving sex with black widows

Aug 08, 2011

Scientists have discovered that male black widow spiders, famous for ending up as their mates' post-coital supper, are not as clueless as you might think. In a series of careful experiments, a team of researchers ...

In spiders, size matters: Small males are more often meals

Sep 10, 2008

Female spiders are voracious predators and consume a wide range of prey, which sometimes includes their mates. A number of hypotheses have been proposed for why females eat males before or after mating. Researchers ...

Parents seeking sex abandon 1 in 3 offspring

Jul 30, 2007

The eggs of the penduline tit Remiz pendulinus are frequently abandoned as both parents go in search of new sexual conquests, a study published in the Journal of Evolutionary Biology has found.

Recommended for you

Orchid named after UC Riverside researcher

9 hours ago

One day about eight years ago, Katia Silvera, a postdoctoral scholar at the University of California, Riverside, and her father were on a field trip in a mountainous area in central Panama when they stumbled ...

In sex-reversed cave insects, females have the penises

12 hours ago

Researchers reporting in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on April 17 have discovered little-known cave insects with rather novel sex lives. The Brazilian insects, which represent four distinct but re ...

Fear of the cuckoo mafia

12 hours ago

If a restaurant owner fails to pay the protection money demanded of him, he can expect his premises to be trashed. Warnings like these are seldom required, however, as fear of the consequences is enough to ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Deadly human pathogen Cryptococcus fully sequenced

Within each strand of DNA lies the blueprint for building an organism, along with the keys to its evolution and survival. These genetic instructions can give valuable insight into why pathogens like Cryptococcus ne ...

Hackathon team's GoogolPlex gives Siri extra powers

(Phys.org) —Four freshmen at the University of Pennsylvania have taken Apple's personal assistant Siri to behave as a graduate-level executive assistant which, when asked, is capable of adjusting the temperature ...

Better thermal-imaging lens from waste sulfur

Sulfur left over from refining fossil fuels can be transformed into cheap, lightweight, plastic lenses for infrared devices, including night-vision goggles, a University of Arizona-led international team ...