Sexual Cannibalism is a curious phenomenon that has developed in many species of invertebrates, primarily consisting of species of spiders and mantids. Two types of sexual cannibalism exist. In many species, females eat or mutilate their mates as an alternative to mating. This is defined as precopulatory sexual cannibalism. Postcopulatory sexual cannibalism occurs in species which exhibit cannibalistic behavior during or after copulation takes place. The phenomenon of sexual cannibalism is so perplexing and so highly studied because it seems that the cost of sex for males should be high enough to dissuade males from engaging in sexual intercourse at all, but this is not the case. Furthermore, it seems like the species in which females provide themselves fewer chances to reproduce should not evolve and succeed as much as they have. Given that male cannibalism in mating and courtship scenarios are rare, this website deals strictly with cases of sexual cannibalism that involve male consumption and mutilation.
This website will explore why sexual cannibalism makes sense and how it developed through four specific questions formulated by Nikolass Tinbergen. These questions are recognized by behavioral scientists who often use them to help dictate what exactly to explore through any experiment. Taking apart a behavior in such a way helps to elucidate certain factors of a behavior for a more accurate final understanding. This website has been broken up into four sections corresponding to each question:
Mechanism: What is the mechanism through which these behaviors operate?
Adaptive Value: What is the adaptive value of these behaviors?
Ontogeny: How do these behaviors develop through an animal’s lifetime
Phylogeny: How did these behaviors develop over the history of a species?