Fatal attraction: deceptive female mantids skip sex for dinner

17 December 2014

New research into the sexual cannibalism of praying mantids has revealed that starving females deceptively signal to males in order to lure them in and consume them.

“This is the first evidence in support of the Femme Fatale hypothesis, which posits that female mantids in poor condition might dishonestly entice males in order to eat them rather than mate with them,” said lead research Dr Kate Barry, of Macquarie University’s Department of Biological Sciences.

The study used large field enclosures on the Macquarie University campus to examine the potential for sexual deception in females that stand to gain the most from this ruse.

Dr Barry found that male praying mantids are more attracted to starving females than to the better-fed females, despite the increased risk of being cannibalised without mating.

“We presume this attraction is due to an increase in the quality or quantity of pheromone emissions, which makes sense because very hungry females gain both survival and reproductive benefits from attracting and consuming a male.

“There are many examples in the animal kingdom of males exploiting females to secure paternity, however in this instance, female praying mantids have turned the tables.”

Barry KL. 2015. Sexual deception in a cannibalistic mating system? Testing the Femme Fatale hypothesis. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B, dx.doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2014.1428.

Filed under: Research Science & nature

Despite the increased risk of being cannibalised without mating, male praying mantids are more attracted to starving females than to better-fed females.

Despite the increased risk of being cannibalised without mating, male praying mantids are more attracted to starving females than to better-fed females.

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