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Love On Top

Posted on: May 05, 2021 / BCC Blog-News / 0 COMMENTS

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by Jesse Potter

Maternal care, or if you prefer, motherly love, is expressed all throughout the animal kingdom and occasionally, it occurs in some unexpected places. Evolutionarily speaking, parental care, or the lack thereof, is often seen as an energy payoff. Generally, animals that put more of their energy into producing few, more developed offspring are more likely to exhibit a higher level of parental care when compared to species that put most of their reproductive energy into producing many smaller offspring. But this afterall, is only a generalization. One of Bolsa Chica’s less appreciated animal residents, the wolf spider, demonstrates a surprising amount of maternal care.

Photo by Paul Marto

While many humans are afraid of spiders, given their tough exteriors, venomous bite, and method of capturing prey, they do have a caring, even relatable side to them. Most spider mothers actually protect and tend to their offspring while they are still eggs, making sure they stay at the right temperature, and protecting them from predators, oftentimes to the point of starvation. The wolf spider, on top of starving to protect her eggs, goes one step further. After her offspring have hatched, a mother wolf spider will actually carry around her young on her back! This allows the young spiderlings to disperse while their mother moves throughout her habitat, and for the mother to hunt and replenish the energy stores she expended while caring for her eggs. The dispersal part may seem a bit odd, but it is actually very important to the success of the spiderlings and the continuation of the mother’s genes as it reduces the amount of competition between her offspring.

If you are ever lucky enough to see a mother wolf spider carrying her young on the trails of the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve, know that it is just another example of a mother’s devotion to her children’s well being, even if it looks a bit scary at first.

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Looking to celebrate Mother’s Day a little differently this year? Show love for your local wetlands and mother when you join the Conservancy this Sunday, May 9th to assist with our hands-on habitat project at Harriett Wieder Regional Park.

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