This is not news, because the study was published in 2011; but it was just brought to Dr. Boli’s attention, and therefore he brings it to yours.

A fascinating study of spiders reveals that males are actually willing to engage in deception to obtain the attention they desire from the female. The whole study may be read here, but this is the abstract:


In nuptial gift-giving species, benefits of acquiring a mate may select for male deception by donation of worthless gifts. We investigated the effect of worthless gifts on mating success in the spider Pisaura mirabilis. Males usually offer an insect prey wrapped in silk; however, worthless gifts containing inedible items are reported. We tested male mating success in the following experimental groups: protein enriched fly gift (PG), regular fly gift (FG), worthless gift (WG), or no gift (NG).


Males that offered worthless gifts acquired similar mating success as males offering nutritional gifts, while males with no gift experienced reduced mating success. The results suggest that strong selection on the nuptial gift-giving trait facilitates male deception by donation of worthless gifts. Females terminated matings faster when males offered worthless donations; this demonstrates a cost of deception for the males as shorter matings lead to reduced sperm transfer and thus give the deceiving males a disadvantage in sperm competition.


We propose that the gift wrapping trait allows males to exploit female foraging preference by disguising the gift content thus deceiving females into mating without acquiring direct benefits. Female preference for a genuine prey gift combined with control over mating duration, however, counteracts the male deception.

We can only marvel at the bizarre ways of spiders, and express our thanks to the Creator that human beings stand so far above them on the evolutionary scale. Imagine a gentleman deceiving a lady in that way, and for such a purpose! No wonder spiders make us shudder.


  1. RepubAnon says:

    I take it that this species of spider is not one of those where the female eats the male after mating. Were this the case, the decision to present a real gift versus a fake gift would be more complex.

  2. Chieppe Scaete says:

    Finally, definitive support for an old adage, “its not the gift, but the thought that counts”.

    An alternative title for this study might be, “Cubic Zirconia Romeos – when giving becomes creepy”, or perhaps, “The Black Widow Maker”.

  3. john says:

    Something else to ponder from the complete article: “During each insertion the male and the female remain motionless. However, if the female moves and attempts to terminate copulation, the male may perform “thanatosis” which is a “death feigning” behaviour.”

    • Since these are not particularly large spiders, and thus are fairly small creatures from a human perspective….would this death-feigning behavior during copulation be a faux petit mort?

  4. If these female spiders are the ones that would seduce the male and eat him after mating unless the male comes bearing a gift, then could one say that such female spiders as those that accept false gifts are trapped in their own web of deceit?

    Jeffery Hodges

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