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Daddy Longlegs Are Having Rough, Kinky Sex All Around You

A team of brave researchers are taking a close look at the violent mating habits of long-legged arachnids. These kinky daddies may be up to something evolutionarily advantageous.

Steven Blum

Steven Blum

Image via Flickr/schizoform

If you squint at a pair of daddy longlegs making sweet love in your attic or beneath your sink, you might notice some unusual behavior. According to new research, the long-legged arachnids engage in diverse, kinky, sometimes violent sex. And the mating can go on for hours.

These mating habits are unique among arachnids, which are more known for eating their lovers than savoring moments together. In some species of daddy longlegs, known for their eponymous second pair of long legs, the male will grab a female's second leg, which is covered in sensory hairs, and nibble on it, presumably for her pleasure.

Read more: Why Women Like to Call Men Daddy During Sex

While the multitude of daddy longlegs mating rituals is inventive, sexual encounters tend to begin not unlike your stereotypical rom-com.

"First they bump into each other, then the male chases the female and tries to hook his front appendages behind the females' second legs and oftentimes the female will resist," says Kasey Fowler-Finn, a biology professor at University of Nebraska who studies arachnid matings. "He ends up wrestling her and, finally, the lucky males end up in this mating embrace."

The mating embrace always happens face-to-face, missionary style, and the males often give a nuptial gift shortly before sex—consider it a pre-coital thank you. Males produce the lipid-based gift separate from their own ejaculate before conveniently delivering it directly to the female's mouth before copulation.

Compared to spiders, the mating sequence that transpires afterwards can be almost tantric. "Usually, when a male spider everts [uses hydraulics to erect his penis], he copulates right away," says Fowler-Finn. "But with some daddy longlegs species, the male everts and the female takes the penis [with her mouth] and samples the nuptial gift even though they won't copulate for another twenty minutes."

While the foreplay is long and indulgent, the sex is often violent—it's not uncommon for males to lose legs in the process if the female isn't down to mate, and there's lots of wrestling involved even when it is (presumably) consensual.

It's not uncommon for males to lose legs in the process if the female isn't down to mate

"If the female doesn't want to mate, she will begin to bite down, and he'll have to decide if it's worth hanging onto her or hanging onto his leg," says Fowler-Finn. "Sometimes the quivering leg just pops right off. And it does not grow back."

I ask Fowler-Finn if females seem to enjoy the rougher aspects of the mating sequence. "It could be that he's trying to prove how strong he is, or it might be a behavior that's been carried over from how males fight with each other in the field, but it's hard to tell if they enjoy it or not," she says.

Still, there's likely some sort of benefit to rough sex. "I wouldn't be surprised if there was some mechanism in place, similar to other animals, where they're getting some benefit out of it," she says.

Her team at the University of St. Louis is also studying how these kinds of violent mating habits might be evolutionarily advantageous. She says she sees longer, more violent copulations in the Northern areas of the daddy longlegs' range partially because they have a shorter mating season, making it more important for male spiders to mate any time they come across a female.

Men want to spend time mating; females want to spend time eating.

Females, on the other hand, prioritize their satiating nuptial gift—the fatty food delivered straight to their mouths before they've even had to do the sex part.

"For females, it could be like, 'Well, I've already mated so what I really need to do is eat a lot so I can store my eggs.' Men want to spend time mating; females want to spend time eating."

Compared to other arachnids, these mating behaviors are relatively tame. When a male spider copulates with a female, for example, he usually has to figure out if he's going to be a mate or a meal. "Often, it's both," Fowler-Finn says. She points out that male Redback spiders (link NSFL) close off their abdomen when mating so their hydraulic fluid doesn't spill out; this allows her to eat him while they mate so he can fertilize more eggs.

"Yes, he dies, but who cares because he's not going to ever come across another female anyway," Fowler-Finn says.

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I ask Fowler Finn if there's a part of her that relishes sharing these rather horrifying sex details with those who aren't part of the spider world. "Yes!" she says. "There's so much going on and it's just as fun and diverse as the mating habits of supposedly more charismatic animals like birds."

Given the popularity of the story about a daddy long leg erection fossilized in amber for 99 million years, there's obviously something uniquely horrifying and fascinating about the sex lives of eight legged creatures with giant, hydraulic penises. While their intricate mating sessions remain somewhat of a mystery, it is clear we're not the only species that appreciates mixing food with kinky sex.