Update: I don’t think they were lesbian spiders

I’m sorry to disappoint, but looking at my Steatoda borealis population, I think what I’ve got are dimorphic males: some with huge spiky palps, some with slender pencil-shaped palps. I have no idea if these are distinct subtypes, or just developmental differences.

I have the full story on Patreon, and posted some photos on Instagram.

Lesbian spiders would have been cool, though, unlikely as that was.


  1. says

    Be careful PZ you might get Bryan Johnson all excited with all this sex talk. He might want you to help him develop huge spiky palps of his own!

  2. Snidely W says

    Clearly, the manly male spiders are the natural spiders.
    When you do inbreeding, you get the girly-man spiders.
    Q.E.D., or something…

  3. microraptor says

    Hmm, I’ve heard of cryptic males (males that exhibit the physical appearance of females) existing in lizards and cuttlefish before. Guess it makes sense that there would be some spiders that also do things that way.

  4. trollofreason says

    I didn’t think they’d be lesbian spiders, but the concept of spider femboys is fascinating. Is it, as you’ve hypothesized, a matter of development or is something else going on?

    I’m vaguely reminded of the sexual manage au-trickery observed in… I think they’re called giant cuttlefish? There’s a sexual dimorphism in the species, & the bigger males will stake out territories where a semi-dispersed harem if females can safely lay their eggs if they let the big males have sex with them. But! There are also smaller males who will mimic the behavior & signals of browsing females, going so far as to tuck away & hide a pair of tentacles that’d give their sex away. Once near to a female, they’ll attempt mating… & the females let them! Despite their smaller size & “unmanly” behavior.

    So I’m wondering if this might not be at least a bit similar? Like, what do the brawny palps signal to females? Do they care, really?