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Cannibal spiders: Research by U of T's Maydianne Andrade featured in Wall Street Journal

(Photo by Nick Iwanyshyn)

Research by Maydianne Andrade, professor in the department of biological sciences at the University of Toronto Scarborough, is helping to explain why some male spiders benefit from elaborately killing themselves during sex. 

An excerpt from an essay written by Lucy Cooke that was published in the Wall Street Journal discusses how the Australian redback spider – one of many Andrade has researched – goes to great acrobatic lengths to become a meal for his mate.

The article notes that Andrade, a Canada Research Chair in Integrative Behavioural Ecology, has proven that the suicidal spiders have an advantage in the evolutionary world. That’s because female spiders often mate with several males in a row, but eating a mate makes the sex last longer, giving the male extra time to fertilize more eggs. The female is also more likely to sit back and digest her meal, rather than immediately look for another male. However, Andrade’s lab has also discovered that some males escape with their lives by mating with immature females that aren’t yet experienced in eating their partners.

Read more in the Wall Street Journal (paywall)