Life as We Know It
Vanishing dinosaurs, breeding birds, redback spiders and more
- By Amanda Bensen, Abby Callard, T.A. Frail and Laura Helmuth
- Smithsonian magazine, January 2010
Australian redback spider atop a red-bodied female (Tim Wimborne / Reuters / Corbis)
Name: The Australian redback spider (Latrodectus hasselti), a cousin of the black widow.
Brave Heart: To mate, a male spider, which is much smaller, must vibrate the strings of a female's web. If he approaches too soon, she eats him.
Wise Guy: But a second male may crash the courtship rite and mate—and walk away without a fang mark on him.
Unfair Lady: It's all in the timing, researchers at the University of Toronto Scarborough say. After a courtship of about 100 minutes, they found, the female is ready to mate, but she doesn't distinguish among suitors. The intruder's exploitation of her lack of discrimination, they say, has not been identified in another species.
Learn more about the Australian redback spider at the Encyclopedia of Life.
“Restoring Superhydrophobicity of Lotus Leaves with Vibration-Induced Dewetting,” Jonathan B. Boreyko and Chuan-Hua Chen, Physical Review Letters, October 23, 2009.
“Extreme Cranial Ontogeny in the Upper Cretaceous Dinosaur Pachycephalosaurus,” John R. Horner and Mark B. Goodwin, PLoS ONE, October 2009.
“Female's courtship threshold allows intruding males to mate with reduced effort,” J. A. Stoltz and M. C. B. Andrade, Proceedings of the Royal Society B, October 28, 2009.
“An Intertidal Sea Star Adjusts Thermal Inertia to Avoid Extreme Body Temperatures,” Sylvain Pincebourde et al., The American Naturalist, December 2009.
“Migratory double breeding in Neotropical migrant birds,” Sievert Rohwer et al., PNAS, November 10, 2009.