The male brown widow (also known as false widow) spider is often cannibalized after mating. The male brown widow (also known as false widow) spider is often cannibalized after mating. The male brown widow (also known as false widow) spider is often cannibalized after mating. (Photo: Roy Niswanger/Flickr)

Spiders prefer mating with older women – and they don't mind getting eaten afterward

So maybe their decision-making skills are questionable. But at least they died happy.

For the most part, we humans don't exactly roll with cannibalism. So we know it's a little unsettling to think that some species actually practice this regularly – and, even though the outcome is always the same, they actually seem to enjoy it.

That's one of the findings of new research on the common brown widow spider (also known as the false widow) conducted by students from three universities in Israel – Ben-Gurion University, Hebrew University and the Volcani Center.

The other jaw-dropping discovery? Despite the benefits of mating with a young female – they're more fertile, they don't require a long courtship and they are less likely to eat their suitors – male spiders actually like their women a little older.

brown widow spider on a web Oh, what a tangled web they weave. (Photo: thatmacroguy/Shutterstock)

It was a surprising revelation for the researchers, who examined the courting behaviors of a group of brown widow spiders in a greenhouse in Israel. In one experiment, they saw many male spiders jockeying for the affections of a few older females. In another, they put a single male spider with a series of females, and sure enough, the man of the hour was drawn to the older ones 100 percent of the time.

“We thought that we would find some benefit that the males have in mating with older females,” says study co-author Shevy Waner, a graduate student at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. “But so far we really don’t understand why that’s their choice.”

They believe, while not certain, that the older female releases more pheromones. As Waner put it, "she's probably more desperate."

So while the male might not know what he's getting into – and probably won't live to see the morning after – we're still kind of rooting for the cougars.

MORE FROM THE GRAPEVINE:

Photos and SlideshowsPhotos and Slideshows

Related Topics: Animals, Science

Spiders prefer mating with older women – and they don't mind getting eaten afterward
So maybe their decision-making skills are questionable. But at least they died happy.