Sexual cannibalism  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Sexual cannibalism is a special case of cannibalism in which a female organism kills and consumes a male of the same species before, during, or after copulation. On rare occasions, these roles are reversed. While there are some species in which sexual cannibalism is normal, the aforementioned reversal of roles is abnormal in all.


Although other forms of cannibalism are widespread in the animal kingdom, sexual cannibalism has been documented only in arachnids, insects, and amphipods, although anecdotal evidence suggests its existence in gastropods and copepods as well.

Despite its overall rarity, sexual cannibalism is common in many families of spiders and scorpions, and can have important effects on population size and sex ratio. Among insects, sexual cannibalism is observed among mantids in captivity, but is otherwise rare (but not unheard of). In most species in which it occurs, sexual cannibalism is related to the larger size of the female due to sexual dimorphism.

Some scientists have downplayed the significance of sexual cannibalism. Stephen Jay Gould argued that sexual cannibalism was too rare to be significant and said biologists had become "overzealous about the power and range of selection by trying to attribute every significant form and behavior to its direct action."

Subsequent research contradicted this opinion and shows that for some sexually cannibalistic species, males are a significant food source for females. One study estimated that 63 percent of the diet of female Chinese mantids are the males of the species.

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Sexual cannibalism" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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