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[Lindsey]: A long time ago, my friends gave me this book - Green Porno by Isabella Rossellini. Isabella Rossellini was in her 50s at the time she put this together: she's been in cinema, modelling, the visual arts - and decided that when her dear friend, Robert Redford - this guy [slide], this guy [slide], this guy [slide], and the founder of Sundance -  was looking for environmental short films, she'd participate... by dressing up as various species and acting out their mating behaviors.

This book comes with a DVD of all the shorts which are also posted online by the same name, Green Porno. And there's another series she did called Seduce Me, which is more about attraction tactics of species.

I've been studying tarantulas recently because where I live in Mexico, the males have been out and about looking for partners. Usually, these furry, 8-legged arachnids are burrowed in holes lined with silk webbing or deeper in a network of tunnels, but late summer/early fall is [sing-song] mating season.

So! As a sort of nerd-documentation of my research and an homage to Isabella Rossellini, I'm going to adorn my face with six more eyes and add some legs to my body. You can imagine a spinneret on either side of my anus that expels silk. This [gestures to prop] is going to be the male spider, no penis, [points to self] I'm a female, no vagina, because that's the way it is.

[SFX: intro music; Slide: "Sexplanations with Dr.Doe"]

[Lindsey]: What do you think? How do I look? [high whispered screech]

Tarantulas evolved in the Americas 120 million years ago during the Crestaceous (?~1:24) Period when dinosaurs were thriving and this was one big land mass with Africa.

First tarantula documented in Mexico was 1856. The most recent discovery, that I've read about at least, was in 2008. In total, Mexico has recorded 66 tarantula species and holds second place for tarantula diversity in the world. I know, not what we look like, use your imagination to extend reality. [high pitch] Pleeese!

Ah, reproductive maturity, [gestures to prop] maybe he's two, six - younger than 10 - male tarantulas create a sort of web blanket to rub themselves on until they produce a pool of semen. A droplet. [enter macrame prop] We're gonna go with the macrame. Pretend that he wove this, he didn't, I got it at the farmer's market. Hecho in Mexicoo!

So, he makes this blanket out of silk - his silk-spider-maker - and he's gonna hump it, he's gonna rub on this until he makes a glob of semen. Poof! Look at that, glob of semen. So he fills his small appendages near his face, the pedipalps, with sperm-coated webbing, and goes in search of a receptive female.

Females, like me, typically take four times as long to reach reproductive maturity and want nothing to do with sex until then. So scientists believe that female tarantulas use scent-based messages called pheromones to give males a clue as to when they're available.

[to tarantula prop, sing-song voice] You gonna go look for a receptive femaaale?

[Slide: reference video] Video all about human pheromones linked in the description.

When a male tarantula identifies a mate, [SFX: Morse code beeps] it drums or taps nearby, vibrating a high-frequency invitation to the female. She may respond in a variety of ways: staying in her burrow, disinterested; tapping back consent to enter; coming out to meet him; or by eating him. Yup, cannibalism happens in tarantula mating, though it's unclear how often.

To prevent this, sex between tarantulas is usually upright and face-to-face with the male bracing his top legs against the female to stop her from biting him.

He inserts his semen-soaked pedipalps one to five times into an opening in her abdomen, then dismounts quickly to go escape and find another female.

I read that if a male comes across another male in pursuit of a mate, they actually have sex with each other rather than aggressively competing like other species.

Of course, across a thousand and forty species of tarantulas worldwide, there are many variations in development and reproduction, but here in Mexico, males basically inseminate as much as possible until their tiny bodies perish.

Meanwhile, the female tarantula goes on holding onto the semen until she's ready to activate reproduction. Mom creates a thick silk sac for her 20-2,000 eggs in an attempt to release them during rainy season, so that the offspring will have plenty of protein sources to grow from when they hatch. [celebratory vocalization] Please don't kill them.

Despite their menacing look, tarantulas are pretty tame. There's certainly no need to exterminate them in defense of your family, pets included.

They'll rear their front legs up if they're agitated, in which case, back off until they relax. If you do get bitten, the consequences are mild: swelling, redness, and warmth. The more painful defensive mechanism tarantulas use is kicking off their urticating hairs - hundreds of barbed, tiny spikes launched like a medieval knife-catapult.

This can all be avoided with caution and kindness. If you need to relocate a tarantula - like I did from my bathroom - simply use a dustpan and Jane Goodall demeanor to gently scoop up the dude and set him elsewhere.

Prepare yourself though, tarantulas look heavier than they are. I thought, that given their lard prosoma and opisthosoma, that holding one - with the supervision of Jessi from Animal Wonders - would feel like the weight of a ball. But it was more like a crumpled tissue. [tosses props] Yeah, don't do that to tarantulas either.

Tarantulas are vital to the ecosystem here: they help manage insects, aerate the earth, and serve as a nursery for tarantula hawk babies. Brace your stomach because the sex doesn't stop here.

 Tarantula Haws (5:09)

Tarantula hawks are a very big wasp, as in 2-inches long, that live in Mexico, too. Dr. John Alcock studied their mating in the Sonoran Desert, which stretches from where I am in Mexico into Arizona. It's the state insect of New Mexico.

Basically, the bigger the tarantula hawk male, the more likely he is to get prime mating territory and a mate, which is called "hilltopping." The smaller males - sometimes 1/4th the size of their peers - are left, quote "less attractive" sites where females are in short supply. Then there are what Alcock calls "the vagabonds" -  transient males who try to intercept a female on their way to the big boys or challenge the larger males in an epic aerial dance-battle.

Imagine these bugs racing 100 feet up - 30 meters - spiraling around one another and then stopping, only to dive-bomb back to the ground, over and over, sometimes for an hour. That's what these males do.

The females, once ejaculated on, look for a tarantula because they're parasitoids. They use their 7 millimeter stingers to paralyze tarantulas, then lay a single egg on the spider's body so that the larva can consume the still-living spider. Not a peaceful act of nature, but still important to the balance.

Stay curious, yeah? [sing-song] Staaay curiouus. Big boy, you're my big boooy.

 Ad Break (6:29)

I'm guessing if you're afraid of spiders, you didn't make it this far into the video. But! If you're afraid of other things like your anger, co-dependence, not knowing what to do with your life or your relationships, my suggestion is therapy, and a great resource for it is BetterHelp.

This episode of Sexplanations is sponsored by BetterHelp, because they're positively impacting my life, and you deserve the same if you want it.

I have sessions twice a week, which I can do from bed on my computer surrounded with puppies. One session gives me a landing space for my personal things that I'm conflicted about so that I know - okay, Friday morning I can complain about and sort these things so that I'm not whining to everyone in my life because I don't otherwise have a place to put my mess. And the other session is for my relationship challenges, how I can get over my trauma as it relates to partners, and love, and loss. It is so meaningful.

If you're struggling, consider therapy with our sponsor, BetterHelp, click the link in the description,, for a ten percent discount on your first month of therapy with a licensed professional specific to your needs.

 Bloopers & Credits (7:33)

And you deserve the same if you want it - want it. And you farted and it smells. [Vocalizes explosion] I can't move my eyes anymore because you're all taped. Dinosaurs were thriving, and this was all one big la-.  Whoa, semen! As in, two-inches long. What, that's. [Sing-song: ba da baa, ba da ba da baa]