If this spider isn’t the mother of the year, we’re not sure who is. The Stegodyphus lineatus spider, which lives in the Negev Desert of Israel, really gives her kids everything she’s got. In fact, she lets them eat her — very, very slowly.
But let’s back up a moment. Each spring, when insects in the desert are at their most abundant, a female spider builds a cylindrical web in a bush, catching and eating as many bugs as she possibly can while guarding her eggs, about eight dozen of them. When the baby spiders are ready, she opens the egg sac and stops eating.
That’s because now, she’s the food. Her intestines have begun dissolving, and by the time the eggs hatch she’s already drooling a thin, clear liquid – made of her insides – which will be her young’s first meal.
Researchers at the Israel Cohen Institute for Biological Control observed the baby spiders swarming their mother’s face to eat the liquid, as their mouths aren’t yet sufficiently developed for hunting. As the babies grow, her intestines (and, eventually, her other organs) begin to dissolve even faster. Near the end, she’s got a beating heart and not much else: her abdomen essentially fills up with sludge.
Within two weeks, the mother spider will have digested herself to death, losing 41 percent of her body mass. At that point, the babies eat the rest of her, piercing her abdomen and sucking out what’s left.
It may seem horrifying, but it makes a lot of sense when you consider that these babies are being raised in the desert, where insects may only be abundant for short periods of time. So mom eats when she can, and makes sure her babies won’t ever go hungry. Talk about sacrificing for your kids!