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When mom serves herself as dinner

Spider’s extreme motherhood ends with fatal family feast

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1:00pm, April 21, 2015

KIDS TODAY  Tiny yellow spiderlings (shown close up) crowd over their gray mother, whom they will eventually eat.

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In a less squeamish universe, Mother’s Day cards would have a spider on them. She’s extreme in her generosity and sacrifice: tireless regurgitation, liquefying guts and the personal touch in family dinners.

Female Stegodyphus lineatus spiders spin loosely woven webs “like a ping-pong net,” says Mor Salomon of the Israel Cohen Institute for Biological Control in Yehud-Monosson, Israel.  She finds the webs in shrubbery along dry river beds in the Negev Desert. Protected inside a spider-size cave spun at one end of the web, a female creates what looks like a tiny silk hockey puck filled with 70 to 80 yellowish eggs.

When spiderlings hatch, they’re trapped in the puck. Mom pierces the protective silk to free them — and then she stops eating for the rest of her life. For the next two weeks or so, she feeds the dozens of young by regurgitating a transparent liquid.

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