A while back, I wrote a post about the mating behavior of spiders. As you may or may not be aware, female spiders typically kill and eat any males foolish enough to approach them. That post included one of my earliest and all time favorite illustrations.
However, you shouldn’t feel too sorry for male spiders. I recently discovered that in at least some spider species, males have evolved longer legs, making them more nimble when approaching females. They’ve also developed the ability to produce extra silk, enabling them to tie up potential mates.
Survival of the fittest is not the only evolutionary pressure on a species. The challenge of securing a mate can be just as important—sometimes more important. Evolutionary biologists call that sexual selection. It’s a concept I had some fun with in an article for Sci-Fi Ideas about the evolution of unicorns.
In the case of spiders, perhaps we’re seeing a little bit of sexual selection and survival of the fittest all rolled into one. A quick-moving, silk slinging male spider is better able to grab a female, tie her up, and… umm… you get the idea. In the end, the male spider escapes uneaten, living on the mate again and spread its genes still further.
In summary, I’m still glad I’m not a spider. Of either gender.