Science has found a good side to sexual cannibalism

Giorgio Cosulich/Getty Images

There may be a point to the grisly act of sexual cannibalism, where female insects make a meal of the male after mating.

A study from Macquarie University and the State University of New York says a male praying mantis may benefit from being eaten.

Apparently it allows them to allocate more of their own biological material in the female mantis’ eggs and also helps her to produce more eggs overall.

“Praying mantis sexual cannibalism –- where the female eats the male after they mate –- actually allows the father mantis to have a greater biological influence over a higher amount of eggs,” says Kate Barry from Macquarie University, an author of the paper.

“When a female ate a male after a mating event, she was found to have around 17.7% more of his biological material in her reproductive tissues, including her eggs and ovaries, than a female who only mated and did not cannibalise her mate.”

The researchers also found that cannibalistic females used the additional food to produce an average of nearly 51 more eggs.

“This finding provides more evidence as to why sexual cannibalism may have evolved in praying mantis species,” says Dr Barry.

Further research needs to be done to determine why males opt for a sexual cannibalism scenario rather than a situation where they live to mate another day.

“Whether this is a mating strategy remains to be seen, although we can speculate that things like mate availability and the success of a single mating event might affect this,” she says.

The study is published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

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