Monday, November 23, 2009

Blood Feeding and BO

In our town this weekend young teens were lined up outside the movie theater waiting to see New Moon. This got us thinking about bloodsucking and romance and BO—and about whether Robert Pattinson’s poor press had impacted his social life.

It also got us thinking about these guys. (Go take a look and come right back; we’ll wait.)

With their complex eyes African jumping spiders look like something straight out of Galaxy of Terror. Their feeding habits are equally weird—they are indirect consumers of vertebrate blood. That is to say, their preferred prey is a female mosquito who has just completed a blood meal.

The jumping spider known as Evarcha culicivora can spot the difference between an edible (but less desireable) lake fly and a bloodcarrying mosquito by both sight and smell. Cool, eh?

It gets better. Spiders who have been on a diet of bloodfed female mosquitoes smell more attractive to spiders of the opposite sex; their BO doesn’t alter their attractiveness to same-sex spiders. 

The effect of the bloodfed mosquito diet is temporary; after being switched to a menu of boring lake flies, they quickly lose their mojo: their BO no longer piques the interest of the opposite sex.

Anyway, hope all you kids enjoyed the movie as much as we enjoyed this new paper. Here’s some free advice: go ahead and take the Mickey Mouse social justice courses for the easy “A” but you owe it to yourself to take a class in comparative zoology or animal behavior. Nature is far more bizarre than any horror movie and at least as entertaining.

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