Allan Lau
Female spiders that receive culinary treats spend more sex time with male partner (Allan Lau)

Male spiders give the object of their affections gifts in order to get longer sex sessions, scientists have found.

If a male spider goes to the effort of finding a good tasty treat, wraps it up in spider silk and presents it to his mate before sex, she will spend longer with him meaning he can provide more sperm than his gift-less counterpart.

The researchers, from Aarhus University in Denmark, studied the mating habits of spiders to establish what it means for female spiders to receive gifts.

They found that the male mates with the female while she devours the gift, giving the male more time for sex.

After mating, the sperm is stored in a special organ that releases it when the female produces eggs to be fertilised.

Researchers found that a female stores more sperm if the male has brought a gift, so has a greater chance of fathering her offspring.

The study authors believe the female spider prefers the sperm from the gift-giving spider because it suggests he is resourceful, good at hunting and catching food - useful traits that might be passed on to offspring.

Spiders are not the only animal to give amorous gifts to their mates. Male fruit flies are known to regurgitate a nutritional liquid gift for potential mates. For these flies, the quality of the regurgitated food relates directly to the condition of the male.

Male kingfishers also provide culinary delights to woo a mate. They swallow fish to offer it up to a female suitor. Charlie Hamilton James, a wildlife filmmaker, told the BBC: "A fish that is too small is generally ignored."

He added that males are not the most patient of lovers, however, and can favour food over sex: "Sometimes the female will beg for fish and the male will ignore her and eat them in front of her."