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A novel catapult mechanism for male spiders to avoid sexual cannibalism


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


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