Feast or fancy? Black widows shake for love

Jan 16, 2014
Credit: Sean McCann / Simon Fraser University

(Phys.org) —A team of Simon Fraser University biologists has found that male black widow spiders shake their abdomens to produce carefully pitched vibrations that let females know they have "come a-courting" and are not potential prey.

The team's research has just been published in the open access journal Frontiers in Zoology.

SFU graduate students Samantha Vibert and Catherine Scott, working with SFU biology professor Gerhard Gries, recorded the vibrations made by male black widow (Latrodectus hesperus), hobo spiders (Tegenaria agrestis) and insects.

Scott explains: "The web functions as an extension of the spider's exquisitely tuned sensory system, allowing her to very quickly detect and respond to prey coming into contact with her silk.

"This presents prospective mates with a real challenge when they first arrive at a female's web: they need to signal their presence and desirability, without triggering the female's predatory response."

The researchers found that the courtship vibrations of both species differed from those of prey, but that the very low-amplitude vibratory signals produced when male black widows shake their abdomens were particularly distinctive. "These 'whispers' may help to avoid potential attacks from the they are wooing," explains Scott.

Explore further: Honey bee behavior altered by insecticides

More information: www.frontiersinzoology.com/content/11/1/4/abstract

Related Stories

Male black widows look for well-fed mates

Jul 07, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- According to a new study published in Animal Behaviour, a male black widow spider is able to identify a female spider that has eaten well by simply taking a few steps on the web she spins. ...

Assassin bugs trap spiders by mimicking prey (w/ Video)

Oct 28, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Scientists in Australia have described how assassin bugs lure spiders to their deaths by plucking the silken threads of the spider’s web with their legs to replicate the vibrations made ...

Reversal of the black widow myth

May 06, 2013

The Black Widow spider gets its name from the popular belief that female spiders eat their male suitors after mating. However, a new study has shown that the tendency to consume a potential mate is also true of some types ...

Recommended for you

Insect mating behavior has lessons for drones

3 hours ago

Male moths locate females by navigating along the latter's pheromone (odor) plume, often flying hundreds of meters to do so. Two strategies are involved to accomplish this: males must find the outer envelope ...

Godwits are flexible... when they get the chance

23 hours ago

Black-tailed godwits are able to cope with unpredictable weather. This was revealed by a thorough analysis of the extraordinary spring of 2013 by ecologist Nathan Senner of the University of Groningen and ...

Do you have the time? Flies sure do

May 28, 2015

Flies might be smarter than you think. According to research reported in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on May 28, fruit flies know what time of day it is. What's more, the insects can learn to con ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.