Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Just in Time for Lunch

And you thought you had bad luck with the opposite sex.

Sexual cannibalism. And it's not even a story about Germany! Man, this stuff must make evolutionary biologists happy. The unlucky male insects & arachnids? Not so much.

Across the eastern United States, a gruesome ritual is in full swing. The praying mantis and its relative, the Chinese mantis, are in their courtship season. A male mantis approaches a female, flapping his wings and swaying his abdomen. Leaping on her back, he begins to mate. And quite often, she tears off his head.

The female mantis devours the head of the still-mating male and then moves on to the rest of his body. “If you put a pair together and come back later, you’ll just find the wings of the male and no other evidence he was ever there,” said William Brown, an evolutionary biologist at the State University of New York in Fredonia.


Some sexual cannibals, including female Chinese mantises, actually eat a lot of males. “One study estimated that 63 percent of the diet of females are male mantids,” Dr. Brown said. “So they’re the main food source.”

Wow. Sixty-three percent. Still, you gotta admire the male mantis' sense of purpose. Headless, and he still gets it on.

I could go on here about how this is a good illustration of the power that genes have over behavior, and how they are more interested in their own survival than that of the bodies in which they inhabit, but I won't.

You may breathe a sigh of relief now.

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