Spider Face Paint

COURTESY OF COLIN HUTTON

NATURAL RED: A male H. pyrrithrix in its natural state

At the University of Florida, scientists have been giving male jumping spiders a makeover. The reason: to determine how their appearance helps them attract a mate.

Female jumping spiders of the species Habronattus pyrrithrix sometimes eat their own kind. Because of this, potential mates need a way to attract their attention without getting gobbled up. Scientists think the key might lie in the male’s brilliant red faces.

To find out, they presented females with both regular red-faced males and ones whose faces they had painted black. The females were less likely to eat males with red faces.

Lisa Anne Taylor, a behavioral ecologist who led the study, says that red coloration often signals that an animal is toxic. She thinks red faces help male H. pyrrithrix look less appealing to eat and more appealing as mates.

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