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Praying Mantises / Black Widows

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62403.  Wed Mar 29, 2006 5:23 am Reply with quote

Question: A female praying mantis secretes a hormone to attract a mate. The lucky male approaches slowly performs a mating dance, strokes his potential mate‘s antannae, mounts her, and rhythmically copulates for 6 hours. What happens next?

Forfeit: He gets eaten

Answer: More often than not he flies away.

There is a popular misconception that after mating the female praying mantis always eats her partner. This is a bit of an unfair sleight on this creature, as in the wild such cannibalism only happens in a small percentage of cases.

This idea was first put forward in 1886, after Leland Ossian Howard published the results of his observation of mating mantids which he kept in a jar in the lab. Unfortunately his observations were more down to the artificial conditions than a natural response. Firstly, in a closed jar, it was impossible for the male to fly away which is what happens in the vast majority of cases in the wild, and secondly it is thought that the increased lighting and confinement caused the female increased stress and led to the cannibalism.

In more recent studies, when cameramen have been able to plant equipment to view the insect in their natural habitat, it has been found that cannibalism is extremely rare. While there are a couple of the around 2000 species of mantid which do eat their mates more often than the others, the reputation is mostly an unfair one.

The praying mantis derives its name from the Greek language, "mantis" meaning diviner or prophet (link to divination special)

They are also known informally as "soothsayers," "devil's horses," "mule killers," and "camel crickets".

It is also the case that generally Black Widow Spiders to not resort to cannibalism after mating, again this has been observed in nature only in a small percentage of species, and is the exception rather than the rule.

62487.  Wed Mar 29, 2006 9:54 am Reply with quote

I think this is a wonderful Gen Ig - a real “blimey!”. Wonder if it would work as a deja vu set up; ask it first about mantises, and then later ask the identical question, but this time about black widows? And give an identical answer, then move onto the subject of deja vu ...

62488.  Wed Mar 29, 2006 9:55 am Reply with quote

Good idea Mr C.

62490.  Wed Mar 29, 2006 10:09 am Reply with quote

The general consensus on Monday seemed to be that it was a rather unsatisfactory question, due to the fact that both these species actually do sometimes exhibit sexual cannibalism, albeit not in the majority of cases; i'm inclined to agree.

That said, it would probably fit in nicely with the "what's the difference between men and women" question or even the "death special".

62673.  Thu Mar 30, 2006 5:22 am Reply with quote

eggshaped wrote:
The general consensus on Monday seemed to be that it was a rather unsatisfactory question, due to the fact that both these species actually do sometimes exhibit sexual cannibalism, albeit not in the majority of cases; i'm inclined to agree.

Good - if the committee votes it down, I'll pinch it for Mythcons, if no-one objects!

62674.  Thu Mar 30, 2006 5:24 am Reply with quote

No objection on my part.

62685.  Thu Mar 30, 2006 5:52 am Reply with quote

What we have here is a two-way street.

As far as the question goes, though: isn't this rather like the one about burning witches in the last series? If we put it like this:

What do most male Black Widow spiders do after they mate?

then it seems to be OK, doesn't it?

Forfeits: light a fag, go to sleep, get eaten
A: fly away (or rather whatever spiders do instead of flying)

Is the trap more effective if we ask about mantises or Black Widows? I don't associate mantises with cannibalism personally. Anyone else?

62696.  Thu Mar 30, 2006 6:10 am Reply with quote

My sample of one reveals that 100% of respondents knew the story about widows, but not about mantises. I, on the other hand, associate it more with mantises than with widows. I trust this helps.

62706.  Thu Mar 30, 2006 6:39 am Reply with quote

The 'biting the head off' thing is definitely mantis-flavoured with me too.

62717.  Thu Mar 30, 2006 6:57 am Reply with quote

The reason I sided with mantises was the link with divination - in my experience Black Widows are most well-known for cannibalism. It's in the name, after all.

62795.  Thu Mar 30, 2006 9:58 am Reply with quote

OK, I buy that.

64620.  Mon Apr 10, 2006 7:53 am Reply with quote

Australian marsupials called antechines look very much like mice. After mating, which lasts several hours, all males die of stress and exhaustion within a day or two. Gastric ulcers, kidney failure, infections, parasites all play a part - the body cannae tak it!

S: Amazing Nature, Mark Carwardine, 2005


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