The Ultimate Maternal Sacrifice? Spider Feeds Itself To Offspring

By David Shamah, The Times of Israel May 10, 2015 Comments

This article was first published on The Times of Israel and was re-posted with permission.

Israeli scientists may have discovered new evidence that some mothers feed their children to a fault.

Female Stegodyphus lineatus, a spider found in southern Israel and other semi-arid habitats around the Mediterranean, has recently been observed engaging in matriphagy, where a mother feeds herself to her young shortly after they have hatched.

spider

Mor Salomon of the Israel Cohen Institute for Biological Control, a government research institute in Yehud-Monosson, near Tel Aviv, discovered the phenomenon with colleagues from the Hebrew University and Ben Gurion University of the Negev while observing the spiders in bushes near dried-up riverbeds in the Negev Desert.

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Although matriphagy was first discovered by German arachnologist Ernst Kullmann in the 1970s, Salomon’s research identified groundbreaking new clues that shed light on the mechanism behind the phenomenon.

While inside the web, the mother spider builds a silk disc containing 70 to 80 eggs. Meanwhile, her intestines begin to dissolve. Once the young spiders hatch, the mother punctures the disc, letting the spiderlings emerge from their lair. “[At this time] a liquid has already accumulated in her gut, allowing her to start regurgitating to her young,” Salomon told Fox News. “While she regurgitates, the process in her intestine intensifies and the liquid formed probably travels back through her intestinal tube to her mouth where she secretes it for her young.”

The young spiders then do their best to collect as much of their mother’s liquefied insides as they can, taking several hours to eat 96 percent of their mother’s mass, leaving the spider’s heart untouched.

To continue reading this article on the TOI site, click here

Photos: Wikimedia Commons/JoaquinPortela,

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