In Spider Society, Female Spiders Are Either Warriors or Nannies


It’s a question we’ve been avoiding for far too long: Can lady spiders really have it all? Well, unless by “have it all” you mean “munch all of the human eyeballs” (a birthright shared by spiders of all genders), then NOPE. In at least one species, female spiders, much like female humans, are expected to choose between a career and a family.

New research on the comb-footed spider—a social species that lives in cooperative colonies throughout the Americas—found that there are two kinds of females, aggressive and docile. Aggressive female spiders work as soldiers, essentially. They capture prey and defend the colony against threats. Docile females, on the other hand, protect and care for the young.

Via NBC News:

Researchers studied individual spiders and created 60 laboratory colonies, each made up of two aggressive and two docile female spiders, and investigated how those females divided up labor.
Individually, aggressive females were more than twice as effective as docile females at capturing cricket prey, and they also constructed webs that retained cricket prey about two-thirds longer than webs constructed by docile females. Furthermore, in colonies, aggressive females repaired webs, attacked potential prey and defended against invasive funnel weaver spiders (Barronopsis texana) nearly three times more often than docile females.
But individually, offspring raised by docile females were twice as likely to survive as young spiders raised by aggressive females. In colonies, docile females took care of the young three times more often than aggressive females, by guarding egg cases, residing within clusters of progeny or regurgitating to feed offspring.
“We were surprised at how good of parents docile spiders turned out to be,” Wright said. “They’re much better parents than aggressive spiders.”

Idea for spiders: You know what’s a cooler thing to be than either a warrior or a nanny? A WARRIOR NANNY.

But really, though. I kind of like this as a metaphor, however tenuous its connection to humanity might be. If you think of womanhood as existing on a spectrum between warrior and nanny (most of us being some combination of both, of course [WARRIOR NANNY!!!]), it’s nice to remember that each is valuable and powerful in its own way. You don’t have to choose one extreme or the other, but if you do, that’s okay too.

And yes, I realize that’s possibly the goofiest paragraph I’ve ever written, but I don’t care. SPIDER WISDOM.

Image via Tomatito/Shutterstock.

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