Lifestyle & Belief

Science news: If you were a spider you might self-castrate, too


A botched attempt to escape. A male Nephilengys malabarensis snapped off his genitals (red box) in the female, but was eaten anyway.


JOELYN OH / from REF 1/Nature

If you had to subject yourself to having sex with female cannibals all the time, you might figure out a sneaky way to self-preserve, too. Which is what spiders have been able to do, Nature reports.

According to Daiqin Li at the National University of Singapore and his colleagues, 75 percent of female spiders kill males during sex. This little inconvenience naturally hasn’t stopped the males’ desire for sex, so they've had to get creative.

This is where the detachable penis comes into play.

According to the study, published in Biology Letters, male spiders have developed a handy skill to counter the female’s cannibalistic streak and — at the same time — increase their own reproductive possibilities. Essentially, they break off their genitals inside the female and run.

It doesn’t stop there.

After the male breaks away his penis, the stub still performs two functions: it continues to pump sperm into the female and it also works as a plug that prevents other males to penetrate. Serves her right: she is left fertilized and hungry.

Even though the spider male hasn’t figured out a way to regrow his genitals and the one sexual encounter leaves him sterile, his escape plan does increase the odds that he will father the offspring of his one and only mate. The one and only mate who wanted to eat him for dinner.

Romantic, isn’t it? 

Makes me want to listen to King Missile and their hit "Detachable Penis."