Scientists Uncover More Disturbing Form of Sexual Cannibalism

Some hungry praying mantises lure in males by lying about their health
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 27, 2014 1:33 PM CST
Scientists Uncover More Disturbing Form of Sexual Cannibalism
A praying mantis stands on a fence at Scranton Memorial Stadium in Scranton, Pa. on Friday, Aug. 29, 2014.   (AP Photo/Scranton Times-Tribune, Michael J. Mullen)

If you don't know about sexual cannibalism, here's a quick primer: It's most common among insects and arachnids, and typically involves a female luring in a male for sex only to eat it, often via beheading, thereby promoting egg development and the likelihood of successful procreation. But new research suggests that, at least in some praying mantises, the practice also involves deception by pheromones—specifically, the hungriest females in poorest health send out scent signals to nearby males that they are in fact healthy and primed for copulation, reports Motherboard. Females who were the most poorly-fed actually "attracted significantly more males" than females who were better-fed, researchers say.

In the study, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, researchers found that this mantis deception only occurred in the hungriest, most desperate females, reports Earth Times. Moreover, the males who mated with the hungriest females only had a 50% chance of actually copulating prior to being devoured (let's face it, these ladies are hungry), compared to 100% when mating with better-fed females. It's classic femme fatale, writes Dave Armstrong on Earth Times: Not only is the male lured in with false promises of sex, but his chance of extending his paternal lineage is but a coin toss, while he dies either way. (Check out how this female octopus kills her male partner before eating him.)

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