Sure, the female black widow has a terrible reputation. But whos the real victim here? Her male counterpart is a total jerk and might just be getting what he deserves.
Learn more about CuriosityStream at http://curiositystream.com/deeplook
SUBSCRIBE to Deep Look! http://goo.gl/8NwXqt
DEEP LOOK: a new ultra-HD (4K) short video series created by KQED San Francisco and presented by PBS Digital Studios. See the unseen at the very edge of our visible world. Get a new perspective on our place in the universe and meet extraordinary new friends. Explore big scientific mysteries by going incredibly small.
Weve all heard the stories. She mates and then kills. Her venom is 15 times stronger than a rattlesnakes. One bite could kill you. With a shiny black color and a glaring red hourglass stomach, she has long inspired fear and awe.
But most species of widow spider (there are 31), including the western black widow found in the U.S., dont kill their mates at all. Only two widow spider species always eat their mate, the Australian redback and the brown widow, an invasive species in California.
And the male seems to be asking for it. In both of these species, he offers himself to her, somersaulting into her mouth after copulation.
He may even deserve it. During peak mating season, thousands of males will prowl around looking for females. Females set up their webs, stay put and wait.
Once the male arrives at her silken abode, he starts to wreck it, systematically disassembling her web one strand at a time. In a process scientists call web reduction, he bunches it into a little ball and wraps it up with his own silk.
Then, while mating, he will wrap her in fine strands that researchers refer to as the bridal veil. He drapes his silk over her legs, where her smell receptors are most concentrated.
After all of that, he is most likely to crawl away, alive and unscathed.
--- Why does the black widow spider eat her mate?
No one really knows, but scientists assume his body supplies her with nutrition for laying eggs. Sometimes she eats him by accident, not recognizing him as a mate.
--- How harmful are black widows to people?
We couldnt find a documented case of a human death from a black widow spider in the U.S., but a bite will make you sick with extreme flu-like symptoms. Luckily, black widows arent aggressive to people.
--- Why do black widows have a red hourglass?
Its a warning sign, a phenomenon common in nature that scientists call aposematicism, which is the use of color to ward off enemies.
---+ Read the entire article on KQED Science:
---+ For more information:
Black widow researcher Catherine Scotts website: http://spiderbytes.org/
---+ More Great Deep Look episodes:
Why Is The Very Hungry Caterpillar So Dang Hungry?
Everything You Never Wanted to Know About Snail Sex
---+ See some great videos and documentaries from the PBS Digital Studios!
Origin of Everything: Why Does Santa Wear Red?
PBS Eons: 'Living Fossils' Aren't Really a Thing
---+ Follow KQED Science:
KQED Science: http://www.kqed.org/science
---+ About KQED
KQED, an NPR and PBS affiliate based in San Francisco, serves the people of Northern California and beyond with a public-supported alternative to commercial media. Home to one of the most listened-to public radio station in the nation, one of the highest-rated public television services and an award-winning education program, KQED is also a leader and innovator in interactive media and technology, taking people of all ages on journeys of exploration exposing them to new people, places and ideas.
Funding for Deep Look is provided in part by PBS Digital Studios and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Deep Look is a project of KQED Science, which is supported by HopeLab, The David B. Gold Foundation; S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation; The Dirk and Charlene Kabcenell Foundation; The Vadasz Family Foundation; Smart Family Foundation and the members of KQED.
#deeplook #blackwidow #spiders