(Argiope aurantia)

An astonishment a day- 
drives your depression away...

A truly noble, manly death.

All the world over, males have died for the good of their species, tribes, clans, families and finally their own genes. This also applies to animals at all levels of evolution, as well as people, and probably some plants, too. 

But the most altruistic and noble death belongs to the argiope male (a spider from the family Araneidae) Argiope aurantia. The argiope male has a double sex organ, specially shaped palpi, with the help of which sperm is transferred to the sex organs of the female. To do this, the first sex organ is used, when the sperm is already in place, he inserts the other palp. And now happens something totally unexpected, maybe even for the spider itself. 

At the time of insertion of the second palp, the male freezes in place, all of his legs fold under him, a typical symptom of a heart attack. He dies in the middle of the sex act. But this happens sometimes to other animals as well. With spiders it  gets more peculiar - the male stays in that very position for about 15-25 minutes. In this time, his sperm have chance to impregnate the eggs as no other male can get anywhere near the female. Attempts at removing the male by other interested males have proved unsuccessful. The dead spider is anchored in place by his swollen palpi. It is only after the critical time of 15-25 minutes that the female is able to remove the male, and then peacefully eats him - as is the quite accepted custom of finishing wedding reception.

What is unusual and one of a kind is the genetic programming of death by heart attack during sex, with the simultaneous creation of a kind of chastity belt, made of the spiders cadaver. 

It is regarded that this is the only genetically planned death known. One must admit, that this is a very male death - the sensible sacrifice from the point of view of the gene pool of the individual.



Argiope aurantia

(source of illustration)



(C) (selected from publications of 
 R. Antoszewski

Titirangi, Auckland, 
New Zeland

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July  2003