Skip to main content

Full text of "Man In The Modern World"

See other formats

occur; but, as Darwin so clearly saw, the advantage may be to the
male and not to the race—the male who did not display himself as
such would not get mated and would leave no descendants.
In the spiders, we find a very interesting difference between the
hunters and the web-spinners. Among the former, who catch their
prey by sight and stalking, males perform strange dances before the
females, and often have the parts they thus display brightly coloured.
The latter are almost blind; and in them there are no dances, but
the male comes up to the web of the female and vibrates one of the
threads in a special manner, quite different: from the vibrations made
by trapped prey. In both cases it seems clear that the courtship's
primary function is to indicate the existence of a usexual situation."
But here, to do so is a good deal more important than in the crab, for
all the evidence goes to show that if this indication were not made, the
female would simply treat the male like any other small living object,
and eat him! In many species she actually does so after the act of
mating (and this occurs too in the scorpions); and in some others
she is definitely hostile at first, while the male, who is usually much
smaller than she is, is always obviously very ready to run away during
the early phases of courtship.
In one hunting spider the male oilers the female a nice fly, neatly
wrapped in silk. If put in a box by himself with a lly, he will eat it;
but if with a fly and a female, he will wrap and oiler it; and i fin a box
from which a female has recently been removed, and in which her
odour still presumably lingers, he will still wrap it, and search, like*
Shelley with his bouquet, "That he might there present it!—Oh, to
whom? "
In the carnivorous flics of the family Empidae, strange developments
of the love-gift have taken place. In some species the male oilers an
unadorned carcass to the female. In others, however, the prey is
stuck in the front end of a glistening*6 balloon,*' made of bubbles of
viscous liquid secreted by the male, larger than his own body, and
carried in his legs as he flies to and fro; doubtless this makes the
"sexual situation" more conspicuous from afar. Finally, iu a few
species there has been a refinement. The balloon is there, but prey
is no longer carried in it; instead, the males stick a leaf or flower-
petal in it—and indeed they will dart down and pick up any small
conspicuous objects, such as fragments of paper, that you may choose
to sprinkle on the surface of the water over which they hover. Here, in
quite a different evolutionary line from our own, we find quite de-
finitely the employment of a non-utilitarian "present" as gift from
male to female.