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Underage Spiders: Males show unexpected interest in young mates

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11:47am, August 23, 2006

To the surprise of biologists, a male Australian redback spider will mate with a juvenile female before her reproductive tract has an external opening. The male bites through the immature female's outer covering and by doing so, protects his own life.

This discovery adds a new twist to a textbook example of extreme mating practices. Until now, biologists had focused on these Latrodectus hasselti males' apparently suicidal sexual behavior with adult females.

While delivering sperm to a mature female, a male typically flips his body and ends up dangling above her fangs, explains Daniela Biaggio of the University of Toronto at Scarborough. Many of these males become lunch, but studies have shown that their sacrifices boost their sh

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