Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Sex! Murder! Cannibalism!

It looks like the blurb for some low-budget 70's horror flick, but such storylines are relatively commonplace in the arthropod world. Argiope lobata Pallas, 1772 is a spider displaying extreme sexual dimorphism - the small male is seldom seen, but the female is one of the largest arachnids found in the Maltese Islands.

As in some other arthropods of the sexually dimorphic ilk (e.g. praying mantises and crabs), the hapless male is frequently cannibalized by the female (seen in the pictures above) following mating. It is mainly seen in humid and shaded habitats suspended head downwards from its very strong web, patiently waiting for prey.

A hardy egg sac like the one below is subsequently constructed nearing the end of the summery season. Hundreds of small spiders hatch and spend the winter inside this sac, emerging in spring.

The images in this post come courtesy of Mr. David Dandria and Mr. Patrick Tabone.

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