Wild Things: Life as We Know It- page 5 | Science | Smithsonian
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(Tim Wimborne / Reuters / Corbis)

Wild Things: Life as We Know It

Vanishing dinosaurs, breeding birds, redback spiders and more

Observed

Australian redback spider
(Cheryl Carlin)
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.

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