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A novel catapult mechanism for male spiders to avoid sexual cannibalism

Cite this dataset

Zhang, Shichang et al. (2022). A novel catapult mechanism for male spiders to avoid sexual cannibalism [Dataset]. Dryad.


The animal world provides numerous examples of mechanisms that allow for extremely fast actions or reactions via slowly storing energy, typically into elastic structures, that is then nearly instantly released 1-4, similar to the operation of a catapult. While these mechanisms are usually employed for prey capture1, 2 or for predator avoidance3,4, such superfast actions have not been reported as a mechanism to dodge sexual cannibalism. Here, we unveil a novel mechanism in a communal orb-weaving spider Philoponella prominens (Uloboridae) (Figure S1), whereby males undertake a split-second catapult action immediately after mating, thereby fleeing their partner (Movie S1). We demonstrate that males achieve their superfast action (up to 88.2 cm/s) by extending the tibia–metatarsus joint of their first leg pair via hydraulic pressure in a joint that is known to lacks extensor muscles across spiders. This rapid expansion greatly reduces the likelihood of the male being sexually cannibalized.


National Natural Science Foundation of China, Award: 31801979, 31872229, 11804087 and 61973159

Ministry of Education AcRF grants of Singapore, Award: A-0004443-00-00, A-0008516-00-00

Slovenian Research Agency, Award: P1-0255, J1-9163, Bi-CN/18-20-022