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Male Black Widows Flock to Fat Virgins

Update Date: Apr 23, 2014 05:46 PM EDT
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Gentlemen prefer buxom virgins- well at least gentlemen black widows.

New research reveals that male black widows find inexperienced and fat females particularly attractive. Scientists said the latest study reveals a rare example of partiality in male spiders.

Lead researchers Emily MacLeod and Maydianne Andrade of the University of Toronto Scarborough discovered that both laboratory and wild black widow males overwhelming preferred to mate with well fed, unmated females. Researchers also found that males were able to discern whether a potential mate is well fed and unmated by pheromones released by females. 

"This near unanimous preference by males for well-fed mates using only phermonal cues has not been documented in any other spider species," MacLeod said in a news release. "These are not visual or auditory cues they are picking up but smells they are sensing, often from far away."

Researchers believe that males prefer females who smell like they've eaten a lot because fatter females produce more offspring than their skinnier counterparts.

"Females who have been able to eat a lot and obtain a lot of food resources can transfer those resources into egg production," said MacLeod. "It's not just that they are healthier but that they are more fertile because they can produce more egg sacks."

Researchers believe survival is another reason males prefer fuller females.

"It's important to remember that when a female eats a lot of prey, she's less likely to eat a potential mate," said Andrade.

"If you have this little food item dancing on a web you may as well eat it if you don't have energy to produce eggs," added MacLeod.

While the study focused on Latrodectus Hesperus, a native to western North American black widow species that don't tend to be cannibalistic. However, males in this species are a lot smaller than females. Researchers said that this means hungry females are more likely to eat than mate with male spiders.

"If you have this little food item dancing on a web you may as well eat it if you don't have energy to produce eggs," explained MacLeod.

Researchers said that latest findings show that some male species need to be picky.

"It shows that males aren't just promiscuous sperm packages, in fact they can go to great lengths to exercise choice in a mate," said MacLeod.

The study is published in the journal Animal Behaviour

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