Male Spiders Are Revealing Their Sensitive Side

Male Spiders Are Revealing Their Sensitive Side

Before you start screaming when you see a spider in your kitchen, and you’ll try to squash it, remember that it’s a pretty complex creature. You might consider throwing it out the window, instead of killing it.

Anyway, the choice is all yours when it comes to deciding what you’ll do with unwanted guests from your own backyard.

The sensory capacity of spiders during mating are higher than expected

Researchers led by General and Systematic Zoology group of the University of Greifswald, Germany, concluded something shocking about male spiders.

Peter Michalik is one of the corresponding authors of the study, and he declared: “Male spiders do not have direct sperm transfer organs, but transfer sperm via the tip of their pedipalps, which are transformed leg-like structures at the front of their bodies. They were thought to be numb and only recently two studies on two distantly related spider species suggested otherwise. Here, we show that the copulatory organs of male spiders have nerves and even contain sensory organs.”

Nervous tissue is considered to be an inherent property of male copulatory organs, for most species. For spiders, however, these structures are situated on appendages in front of the walking legs. Scientists previously thought that they don’t possess any nerves, muscles, or sense organs. Until this day, the generally accepted idea was that the same cells are developing from what makes up the claws.

How they did it

The scientists have been using a series of imaging techniques, like micro-CT. They tested if the innervation of the spider copulatory organs is part of the ground pattern of spiders. The authors showed that the copulatory organ contained nervous tissue, which was found near the glandular tissue of the spermophor, where sperm are stored.

Peter Michalik also said: “Our findings shed new light on the possible interactions between male and female spiders during mating. Males generally move their pedipalps during mating which might allow the male to transfer sperm and to assess the females during mating. The movement may even help in removing a predecessor’s sperm from the female’s sperm storage site, as happens in some species. In light of our findings, our current understanding of mating strategies in spiders needs to be revisited.”

The study has been published in the open access journal Frontiers in Zoology.

Anna is an avid blogger with an educational background in medicine and mental health. She is a generalist with many other interests including nutrition, women's health, astronomy and photography. In her free time from work and writing, Anna enjoys nature walks, reading, and listening to jazz and classical music.

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