A parent’s greatest joy is to see their children excel in life. They would sacrifice a lot for the betterment of their kid’s better future. No other species take it to the extreme like the species that do sexual cannibalism.
Sexual cannibalism is where the female devours the male before, during, or after copulation. That is evidenced in some insect species likes of the black widow, scorpions, and praying mantis.
A Case Study of Praying Mantis Sexual Cannibalism
Poor male mantis, if he gets lucky while on a date. There is a 13-28 percent chance that she is going to eat him after copulation. In fact, during the mating seasons, 63 percent of female mantises diet consists of their male dates they copulated with.
No, these females are not crazy, they are just giving their kids the best chances of survival in this cold (cold) world. For the males that do eaten, sometimes even before they get done with the copulation, they make the ultimate sacrifice; the most extreme case of male parental investment towards a greater future of their kids.
A study suggests that the female mantis behavior of devouring her mate before, during, or after copulation could have evolved out of a survival instinct adaptation for their offspring. By eating her mate, the female ensures the male will continue to provide for their offspring even after death; by becoming their food.
“Sexual cannibalism…increases male investment in offspring,” says William Brown from the State University of New York, a co-author of a paper published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
Brown working together with Katherine Barry from the Macquarie University in Australia, fed some cricket with traceable radioactive amino acids to a group of male mantises. They then allowed the male mantises into an enclosure of female mantises for mating to take place.
Male mantises are food for the offspring
Half of the males survived the mating session as their human handler intervened immediately after pairing and saved them from their female mate cannibalistic pillow talk. For the other half, well it was the last thing they ever did alive.
The scientist then traced the flow of the radioactive proteins through the female bodies and to their eggs. The results showed that of the female mantis who ate their mate, they had an increased number of eggs, as a result of cannibalism. The traced amino acids ended up to be more in the eggs, that the females’ bodies.
Male mantises can mate multiple times and with different females until that unlucky day when they come across the wrong one. This behavior is also noticed in black widow and scorpions. However, some male spiders can only mate once in their lifetime. That is because their sex organs become severely damaged during copulation that they become virtually useless afterward.