Exit Strategy

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For a spider, mating is a matter of life and death.

Female spiders often devour their male partners before, during or after mating. But male orb-weaving spiders have developed an effective love-’em-and-leave-’em strategy to avoid becoming the main course, according to Agence France-Presse.

Scientists recently discovered that the male arachnid of that species catapults himself away from the female immediately right after sexual intercourse.

In their study, a research team used high-speed cameras to understand sexual selection in orb-weaving spiders, which live in communal groups of up to 300.

The team observed that 152 out of 155 sexual encounters ended with the male species bouncing off the female and surviving the ordeal. The ones that didn’t, unfortunately, ended up cannibalized.

The findings showed that the average peak speed of the maneuver was 65 centimeters per second with an acceleration of 200 meters per second squared. Researchers explained that the number is about 20 times the acceleration felt during freefall – or 9.8 meters per second squared.

Despite the daring escape, they said that males would still mate with the same female again – and then catapult off again – up to six times.

Lead author Shichang Zhang said that no other species catapults after coitus but noted that other male spiders have developed novel ways to avoid becoming meals: For example, male nursery web spiders tie their partners up before mating.

Zhang suggested that females were judging the males’ sexual suitability by their exit strategies.

Click here to see how the gentleman spider makes his exit.

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