News

SFU Researchers: Male black widow spiders twerk for affection

A female black widow spider begins to make its web around a tree branch, in this photo taken in Georgia, United States. - Public domain
A female black widow spider begins to make its web around a tree branch, in this photo taken in Georgia, United States.
— image credit: Public domain

SFU researchers have cracked the flirtatious code of black widow spiders, according to a news release sent out by the university.

When they decide to "come-a-courting" the male black widow spiders "shake their abdomens to produce carefully pitched vibrations", an effort to let females know they aren't "potential prey".

In other words, they twerk.

This conclusion was published in an open access journal titled 'Frontiers in Zoology'. It was discovered by Simon Fraser graduate students Samantha Vibert and Catherine Scott, as well as biology professor Gerhard Gries.

"The (spider's) 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," says Catherine Scott.

"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 vibratory signals act as "whispers" that let females know of their intentions, an effort "to avoid potential attacks from the females they are wooing," says Scott.

From the journal's abstract:

"Female spiders are fine-tuned to detect and quickly respond to prey vibrations, presenting a challenge to courting males who must attract a female's attention but not be mistaken for prey. This is likely particularly important at the onset of courtship when a male enters a female's web."

Female black widow spiders weigh approximately 30 times what males do, according to the video below from National Geographic, and any sexual approach from a male is a potentially deadly manoeuvre:

We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.

Community Events, August 2014

Add an Event

Read the latest eEdition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Aug 22 edition online now. Browse the archives.