Thursday, November 24, 2011

Gifts For Sex

Marginal Revolution has an interesting post on how male nursery-web spiders have to present gifts to the females in order to mate with them. While courtship among insects and arthropods are not exactly a new concept, the interesting phenomenon is that the male nursery-web spider has to wrap that gift up in silk. Even more interesting is that sometimes, the male wraps a dud in it. Before you jump to the conclusion that the male spiders are lying bastards, have a look at the picture below.

The male nursery-web spider is the small black one on the left. That is the difference in the size between the genders of the species. In the comments section of Marginal Revolution's post, one of the readers said:
Actually among arthropods, and especially among spiders the position of the female is so greatly favored, with the females usually being larger, stronger, and longer lived, that the sexual politics of this are completely reversed. This is actually true of most of most protostomes, so if you want to think about this correctly, reverse the sexes.
As an aside, ever notice how humans in general compare powerful women to insects and spiders? Spider Queens, Queen Bees, etc…
Also, Tyler Cowen has this to add:
Females presented with food will often grab the food and run, leaving the males doubly hungry. A wrapped package is harder to steal (the males have a better grip on the silk) and as the females slowly unwrap their potentially delicious presents the males copulate. Thus, the rituals of silken wrapped gifts conceal intricate conflicts over resources and sex. Only among spiders, of course.
Interesting. Females might actually run away with the gifts without giving the males what they want. Nonetheless, I think the clincher is another one of the comments on the post:
Reminds me of one of the heuristics Richard Feynman had about women in bars…
“Never pay for anything unless they have agreed to go to bed with you and you know they aren’t lying.”
HT: Marginal Revolution

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