Photo Adventures with Curiosity and Learning

July 5, 2007: Nephila pilepes part 2 of the mating game

    Two observations:
  • I have seen three mating episodes and in each case, there were no invading Argyrodes flavescens in the web
  • A thread of dragline silk appears along the long axis of the female abdomen. Although I have not been visually trace the strand to the ventral side, in each case, it appears to originate from her spinneret, wrap around her right lower abdomen and then along the long axis of her dorsal side of her abdomen as shown below. Early in the mating game, this strand is a single strand. Later in the mating game, the region near the cephalothorax (head) is quite dense with multiple fibers that appear to be part of the head wrapping exercise (the male, at some stage of the mating game performs some sort of wrapping the female cephalothorax. In the afternoon, I returned and found that the woven area around her cephalothorax was disappearing. What I thought was weaving, apparently was unweaving - and was captured with the video below.
    Video segments - about 8am. Perhaps male weaving with female silk
  • Male weaving (18 MB mpg) Near the end of the video, the male appears to pick up a strand of female silk (near the spinneret) and pull it forward.
I visited the web about 8am (with my still camera and a Powershot S3 that I used to take some hand held videos). Realizing that I needed stable video, I returned about 4pm with the video camera. It appears that the male spent the morning building the web structure around her head while the late afternoon shots show a less cluttered cephalothorax region and the absence of the silk bundle projecting toward her left front leg. So I suspect he was cleaning up and unweaving. Perhaps his last meal?

Here is a presentation of the female in her launching position (where she waits for prey to become tangled in her web. There is a single strand of dragline silk that she attaches to an upper part of the web (sort of an escape and recover strand). The male is the small orange spider on her left side near the rear leg. You can see the black circular region on each palp where sperm is held for later injection into the female epigynum.

The time is about 9:50 am

jul 05 1219 mating strand

A closer view

jul 05 1219 mating strand close

Here he is on her dorsal surface. You can see the bridge of silk projecting from the left side of her cephalothroax near the connection to her abdomen and attached to the third left leg (counting from her head).

jul 05 1225 male dorsal close

Here are some shot of his movement over her abdomen and head

jul 05 1241 male dorsal

At the rear of her abdomen

jul 05 1266 male dorsal rear

On the right side of her abdomen. If you look at the video (above) perhaps you can figure out what he is doing.

jul 05 1286 male dorsal

Though not clear, here is a closer view where you can see the black region of his palps and also the woven surface near the cephalothroax - almost like weaving a cover.

jul 05 1286 male palps

Here is a closer look at him as he wanders around her ventral surface. Again note the black tips of his palps.

jul 05 1289 male dorsal close

Here is a closer view - again, not so great focus. He appears to be attaching something since his abdomen is in the down position

jul 05 1301 male close

A good view of the silk cover with the male and his little black palps

jul 05 1309 male female close

Here the male is dancing on her right legs

jul 05 1315 male dance

Nearby was another Nephila pilipes web - with two invading Argyrodes (see above her rear legs).

jul 05 1596 nephila side

The A. flavescens

jul 05 1567 argyrodes

Her spinneret - For me, this was an unusual position - with her abdomen at about a 45 degree angle from the web plane. You can see one of the invading A. flavescens near the top.

jul 05 1619 spinneret

and different views of the A. flavescens

jul 05 1645 argyrodes

A different view

jul 05 1654 argyrodes


jul 05 1656 argyrodes close

jul 05 1658 argyrodes close

This is a fun photo - where the strand in the lower left corner progresses from a big blur to a focused strand as it approaches the focal plane.

jul 05 1664 argyrodes converge

After visiting the Nephila web with Argyrodes I returned to the mating Nephila - about 5pm. It appears as if the male is cleaning up the cephalothorax web that was built during the morning.

jul 05 1689 nephila male

Note the absence of the bundle that appeared attached to the third left leg (counting from her head).

jul 05 1689 nephila male close

Here he is working around her left legs - maybe cleanup?

jul 05 1697 male nephila

Then around the the right side of her abdomen

jul 05 1700 male nephila side

Then under to her ventral side

jul 05 1707 male ventral palp

Another view

jul 05 1727 male maybe no palp

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C. Frank Starmer