Spider’s extreme motherhood ends with fatal family feast
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.