What good are virgins in a developmental biology lab?

I’m back! I survived my trek to the lab! It wasn’t as bad as I made it sound — the wind is biting, and the snow is coming down sideways, but it’s fairly light so far — so, except for the wolves and the yeti that tried to block my path, it was a reasonably easy trip.

There were reasons I was eager to go in. I’ve been getting anxious, because I’ve got all these new generation spiders, and they’re all virgins because of the shortage of males. I need them to lay eggs! I’ve got new students who want to work with me this semester, and it’s hard to do developmental biology with a bunch of virginal female spiders not producing embryos for us.* That one pair mated yesterday was a promising start, so there were a few things I wanted to do.

  • See if Yara had produced an egg sac. She hadn’t, but there were signs that she was nesting, with some debris pulled up into her favorite corner (which makes me think she might be Parasteatoda tabulata, too.)
  • Make sure her current partner, Chad, hadn’t been eaten. He was fine.
  • Feed her some more, both to make her less likely to eat the male, but also to fuel a little more egg production. Mission accomplished.

Does she look plump to you? She does to me, a little bit. Also her abdomen is paler than it was yesterday, I think. Come on, mama!

*There are some behavioral experiments we could do, but really, development is where my brain is at. We’ll see what interests the students.


  1. daved says

    What, no studies of the evolutionary psychology of spiders? I can’t believe you’re overlooking this vast, untapped research area.

  2. wsierichs says

    You do not understand sophisticated theology. If you sacrifice virgins to the Spider Gods, they will reward you many many spider babies. Christians don’t offer virgin sacrifices to their god, that’s why it kills so many of them in storms, earthquakes, tsunamis, plane crashes etc, no matter how much they pray. If Christians would only return to the old ways, just think of the many wonderful favors their god would do for them – world domination, courts filled with nothing but evangelical Christians judges, miracle healings and survivals aplenty, and dogs and cats no longer would be living together!

  3. says

    Compare Our Gracious Host’s footnote:
    “There are some behavioral experiments we could do, but really, development is where my brain is at. We’ll see what interests the students.”
    with Toby Ziegler’s zinger in the pilot of The West Wing:
    “Show the average American teenage male a lug wrench, and his mind will turn to thoughts of lust.”

    And he’s not just showing them a lug wrench, but actual mating. I think I know what will interest the students… even if they try to pretend otherwise.

    But at least it won’t be Goop.

  4. says

    Surprisingly, American teenagers don’t get all that excited at the sight of spiders mating. Must be reduced testosterone levels in this generation, or something.

  5. George says

    You sure it was a Yeti? Those are native to Tibet. It was probably a Sasquatch. For a biologist, you sure are unobservant.