Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Gettin' the Job Done

Sex. Yes, that is what my title is referring to. Funny how it automatically draws the attention of almost any reader. We are human - although this post is not about humans but is rather about the orb-web spider. This arachnid has a special talent that allows for reproduction to be more likely to succeed. See, when your partner is trying to cannibalistically eat you alive and will kill you once you've mated, it is important that you can pass on your genes (especially when you only have two chances at max to reproduce). Many organisms' lives are structured around having reproductive success to keep their populations alive. The trick that this fella has is a detachable penis. The correct technical term of the sex organ is the "palps" but they do the same job. When the male and female disengage from mating (which is either when the female pushes him away to consume him or when the male flees the scene), not only do the palps detach, but they continue pumping sperm into the female!

How is this known? Just to get all of the facts straight, 50 virgin spiders (25 male and 25 female) were collected and matched in pairs. They were watched to see how long they would mate for and to measure how much of the palp broke off. Here are some of the findings:

--88% of the time the entire palp was left in the female
--Sperm transfer continued after the palp was detached from its owner
--Before palp breakoff, 30% of sperm was transferred
--After palp breakoff, 85% of sperm was transferred

Once all is said and done, it is not said and done. It took the females up to seven hours to force the palps out of their bodies. This has dual roles: 1) it ensures maximum sperm transfer and 2) the palp acts as a blockage to any other males who may try and mate with their female. So in this case, the tap and go method is advised --or risk being eaten.


I thought that this article was fairly interesting so I then thought that others might find it interesting as well. The topic hooks the reader (well, me at least). I tried to write this post in a very non-serious manner. I also wanted to make it appropriate and informational but honestly it would've been more interesting if I would've added all of the inuendos that I would have liked to. It was also more of a casual post which made it easier to write and hopefully easier to read.

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