Not One Of My Fantasies
Poem By gershon hepner
When the female praying mantis sees
a male who wants to mate with her she often bites
his head off, not one of my fantasies,
I must admit to those who troll poetic sites
in search of what is sexually bizarre,
with thoughts of trying something dangerously new.
Though giving head is hardly going far,
to have it taken off is hardly something you
should contemplate, dear reader, when you play;
to be a food source ought to make all lovers squirm,
except when they just like a mantis pray
to have their loving partner swallow all your sperm.
Carl Zimmer write about the courtship of mantises (NYT, September 5,2006, 'This Can't Be Love') :
Across the eastern United States, a gruesome ritual is in full swing. The praying mantis and its relative, the Chinese mantis, are in their courtship season. A male mantis approaches a female, flapping his wings and swaying his abdomen. Leaping on her back, he begins to mate. And quite often, she tears off his head. The female mantis devours the head of the still-mating male and then moves on to the rest of his body. “If you put a pair together and come back later, you’ll just find the wings of the male and no other evidence he was ever there, ” said William Brown, an evolutionary biologist at the State University of New York in Fredonia. Sexual cannibalism has fascinated biologists ever since Darwin. It is not limited to mantises, but is also found in other invertebrates, including spiders, midges and perhaps horned nudibranchs. Biologists have debated how this behavior has evolved in these species. Some have suggested that sexual cannibalism is just a result of a
voracious female appetite. But experiments have also suggested that it is a strategy that females use to select the best fathers for their offspring. Other scientists have found evidence that males may have had a role in the evolution of cannibalism. By surrendering themselves to their mates, males increase their reproductive success. Still other scientists have proposed that males actually go to great lengths to minimize their risk of being eaten. As scientists look more closely at sexual cannibalism in many species, the emerging consensus is that all of these theories may be right. Different evolutionary pressures produce sexual cannibalism in different species., “It’s not something that lends itself to a single, simple explanation, ” said Mark Elgar of the University of Melbourne.
Sexual cannibalism became a hot topic of debate among biologists in 1984. Scientists from Cornell and the University of Texas at Austin proposed that it evolved because the males of some species could get an evolutionary advantage from being eaten. Their bodies could nourish the mothers of their offspring, raising the odds that those offspring would successfully hatch and grow up to produce their own offspring, thus carrying on the father’s genes.The late Harvard biologist Stephen Jay Gould attacked this argument, calling it a prime example of how biologists had become “overzealous about the power and range of selection by trying to attribute every significant form and behavior to its direct action.”
Dr. Gould argued that sexual cannibalism was too rare to be significant. It is possible, he said, that females eat their mates simply because they mistake them for prey.
Subsequent research refuted parts of Dr. Gould’s argument. Some sexual cannibals, including female Chinese mantises, actually eat a lot of males. “One study estimated that 63 percent of the diet of females are male mantids, ” Dr. Brown said. “So they’re the main food source.” Other scientists have demonstrated that males can increase their chances of passing on their genes if they cooperate in their own death…
Dr. Brown also wonders whether female mantises have evolved ways to lure males to eat. Female mantises depend so much on male mantises for their diet that natural selection may favor females that can attract more males. Dr. Brown notes that male mantises are drawn to females by the odor of pheromones. He is investigating whether female mantises use the pheromones as a trap, rather than an honest signal. “The most intriguing situation would be a mated female that’s hungry, ” Dr. Brown said. “Does she boost her pheromones, not because she needs sperm but because she needs food? ”