The copulatory organ of a different species of spider (Image: Journal of Insect Science/Animalparty/Wikimedia)
Do spiders enjoy sex? Up until now, scientists thought they probably did not, since their sex organs are “basically modified arms emanating from the arachnid’s head,” as Science Magazine puts it. But now a new study published in Biology Letters has found that those modified legs, called pedipalps, do have nervous tissue in the “palpal organ,” which delivers sperm. And they think that maybe spiders feel something while mating after all.
The study looked specifically at Tasmanian cave spiders and found “several neurons” into the palpal organ. Because of where they’re located, they’re “likely to able to directly perceive sensory input during sperm transfer,” the scientists write.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that the spiders are having sex for fun. Actually, if they feel anything at all, it could be as a way to up their game. As LiveScience explains, ”females can ‘choose,’ in ways not entirely understood whether or not their eggs are fertilized.” And the nerves in the male palpal organ may be a way of exercising control, too, by controlling “the quality and volume of their ejaculate—reserving the best secretions fro the choicest mates,” Science Magazine says.
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