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Spider sex play has its pluses

Playing at mating yields later benefits for young arachnids

6:43pm, January 5, 2011

SALT LAKE CITY — When pairs of young comb-footed spiders engage in an arachnid version of heavy petting, the males gain experience that appears to pay off later.

A male spider that repeatedly courts and mock-mates with a not-quite-mature female ends up reaping benefits later, said Jonathan Pruitt of the University of California, Davis. Speaking January 4 at the annual meeting of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology, he proposed that such seemingly pointless spider encounters, which can’t produce offspring, may resemble other young animals’ racing and wrestling by providing practice for life’s future tasks.

“I thought it would sound silly if I call

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