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Science

Being eaten can actually make a praying mantis a better dad

Are you disappointed that your son didn’t inherit your devilishly handsome, Batman-esque chin, but instead took after the curve of your wife’s beautiful-but-not-at-all-Dark-Knight-ish face? That’s probably because she didn’t eat you after the conception.

A recently unveiled collaborative study between Macquarie University, here in Australia, and the State University of New York has found that the much-famed post-coital cannibalistic habits of the female praying mantis could serve a greater purpose than simply her curing the munchies after making sweet, sweet bug love.

The study found that in pairings where the female consumed the male after mating — as opposed to those couples where the male split as soon as he was finished — the eventual offspring possessed up to 17.7 percent more of the male’s biological material.

On top of the added biological material being passed down, the late father also helped his mate make more eggs, with cannibal mothers actually producing on average an addition 51 eggs more than their more sentimental counterparts.

In a press release from Macquarie University, Dr Kate Barry, one of the paper’s authors, noted the evolutionary significance of this research:

“This finding provides more evidence as to why sexual cannibalism may have evolved in praying mantis species, as the cannibalism process not only allows a male to have more biological influence over his offspring, but also means he could potentially fertilise more eggs from that female.”

Essentially, the males that are eaten after mating, despite never being there to play catch, end up having a greater influence on their offspring that those that are still kicking around — at least on a biological level.

The team noted that they would like to perform more research into why some males allow themselves to be eaten and why some simply move on. If the purpose of being eaten is to pass on genetic material, then what is the purpose of not being eaten?

But really, the take-away from all of this is that if you really want your kids to take after you, don’t waste your time with being a loving, supportive and caring father — just let your wife eat you.

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About the author

Tyler is currently based in Canberra, though he rejects this reality and enjoys immersing himself in games, technology, and comics. You can usually catch him trying to find that last shard/flag/feather.
Twitter: @FinalAlchemist

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