Summary: Sexual Conflict in Nature
During the mating season, male robber flies roam through the vegetation in
search of females. When approached by a male, a female takes to the wing,
and the male pursues. If overtaken and grappled by a male, females of most
species struggle violently, often successfully, to free themselves. In a few spe-
cies, however, females may use another strategy to achieve the same result; if
grasped by a male, they play dead! Once a female stops moving, a male appar-
ently no longer recognizes her as a potential partner, loses interest, and releases
the female, who falls to the ground and flies off.
Over the course of the egg-laying period, a male penduline tit (a song bird)
makes repeated forays to his partner's nest in an apparent attempt to assess
how many eggs she has laid thus far. Female partners, however, seem to make
sure that this inspection job is not an easy one for males. Females bury their
eggs in the bottom of the nest, perhaps to hide them, and become aggressive
toward their mates. Observations in aviaries have shown that these inquisitive
males are sometimes injured or even killed by their secretive mates.
As in most spiders where courting males are at risk of being cannibalized
by females, a male of the funnel-web spider Agelenopsis aperta approaches a
female slowly and very carefully. Once close, he sprays an apparent "toxin"