Quirks & Quarks

Male Spider Purrs for Sex

The male wolf spider uses a comb on its underside to advertise its presence to females.

Purring sound attracts female spiders

Male Wolf Spider (Alexander Sweger)
It is well known that spiders sense the presence of other spiders, as well as prey and predators, through web vibrations. They have special sensory organs on their legs, which they the use like ears to sense movement.

But a new study of the wolf spider by Alex Sweger, a PhD student in Biological Sciences at the University of Cincinnati, has determined that the vibrations from airborne sounds can also be detected by spiders.

The male wolf spider makes a purring sound by dragging a comb-like organ on its underside across the leaf substrate on which it lives. The resulting vibrations are 'heard' by the female, who responds by making her presence known to the courting male. 

Related Links

Paper presented at the Acoustical Society of America meeting
BBC News story
Huffington Post story
- Smithsonian magazine story