Sacrificial virgin spiders let their nieces eat them alive

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Species: Stegodyphus dumicola

Habitat: Massive spider webs in southern Africa

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It takes a lot to be a good aunt if you’re a velvet spider. In fact, it takes your internal organs. After tending lovingly to your sisters’ eggs and regurgitating food for newborns, it’s time to offer yourself as the main course for the spiderlings to suck you dry.

“[The] spiders literally start feeding on the female while she is alive,” says Trine Bilde at Aarhus University in Denmark. The spiderlings inject enzymes to dissolve her innards and suck out the semi-digested fluids, leaving only the outer shell. “But there is no apparent aggression. It looks as if females are almost inviting spiderlings to feed on them.”

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News Date: 

Monday, September 18, 2017