Male nursery web spiders sometimes "pay" for mating using worthless gifts, with a new study finding the gals are not impressed with the empty offerings.
These gifts serve as decoys: Worthless bits of flower, cotton or ant husks wrapped in silk that serve only to distract the female while the males have their way. Another trick? If not satiated, males play dead until the female thinks she has gotten away, and then he wakes up and grabs her for another go.
"The nuptial gift (an insect prey wrapped in silk) is a very important trait for mating success," study researcher Maria Jose Albo, a researcher at Aarhus University in Denmark and the Instituto de Investigaciones Bioložgicas Clemente Estable in Uruguay, told LiveScience in an email. "Males with gifts increase the chances to be accepted by females and also prolong copulation duration, males without gifts are normally rejected or obtain short copulations."
Albo and colleagues are still perplexed as to how the gifts benefit the mama spider or her spiderlings. ...