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The Mimicry of Spiders


Text written by Atila, a Brazilian biologist who writes about biology and evolution to Rainha Vermelha and manages Lablogatórios, a Portuguese language science blogs community.

All dressed up for dinner.

Before we discuss the fantastic mimicry (camouflage and adaptation) that some spiders employ for hunting and waiting for prey, let's have a look at how spectacular (and notably cute) these creatures can get. Here, for example, is the "Snow White":

Salticidae (or "Jumping Spider") is a true hunter among spider family. Instead of building a web and sitting on it, these spiders hunt actively relying on their exceptional vision. Such highly developed visual sense and fantastic eye arrangement play a significant role, when females choose males.

Not to be outdone, the males, too, have very colorful displays and well-ritualized mating techniques, as you can see on the next pictures (courtesy Opo Terser):

"What are you looking at?" -

The colors are wonderful: blue, red formal wear... "A Bluebeard"? -

This guy looks particularly wise with his white beard:

Look into these headlights...

Every one has it's own expression... This is a little coy:

Zebra stripes and orange pom-poms (Maevia inclemens):

Athletic fit:

Old and wise:

I Can Has Cheezburger? -

Jabba the Hutt (actually, the vary large wolf spider - Hogna species) -

(all above images courtesy Opo Terser)


(image credit: Hannes Mitchell)

Hilarious jumping spider mating behavior:

"A male jumping spider trying very hard to excite a female jumping spider. That thing it does...with it's front legs... He taps, he scrapes, he turns and twists...he stops!... Make sure you turn up the volume on your speakers...the sounds are half the act"


Sensational Mimicry Acts!

Some salticidae have evolved to mimic ants. By doing so, they can avoid predators and ant attacks - this is a big threat to these small forager hunters. They form the Myrmarachne genus. As ants have 6 legs ant 2 antennae, these spiders keep the front legs over the head imitating the antennae. What they can't hide is the number of eyes, look to the head and you will see two big eyes like ants and in the front of the head four or six more eyes.

These are all spiders; not the 8-eyed ants!

(image credit: Opo Terser)

(images credit: Hannes Mitchell)

Very long jaw - Males usually have elongated chelicerae which they use to fight off rivals. These chelicerae may be as long as half their body length:

(image credit: Hannes Mitchell)

More black-ant-like spiders:

(images credit: Malaysian Spiders)

Other spiders (not necessarily jumping spiders) may use different mimicry. Some, like crab spiders, may blend with flowers and wait for insects... Do you see the hiding "Yellow Death"? -

(image credit: Hannes Mitchell)

Others are mimicking even weirder things, such as bird droppings -

(image credit: Luenni)

- and twigs, that are hard to spot:

(image credit: spilopterus)

Can you see this one? -

(image credit: spilopterus)

And this one completely blends with a dry leaf:

(images credit: Malaysian Spiders)

Also Read: Spiders! (Close-up Photos)
Amazing Architecture of Spider Webs

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Anonymous Atila said...

Perfect post Avi! But the picture with the subtitle ant is a Spider too! Take a look at the front eyes. Could you link my blog on my name?

Blogger The Gravelcat said...

I love this post... The spiders are incredibly beautiful. What made me laugh was the "I can has cheezburger?" lolspider. Totally made my day.

Anonymous tangle said...

I don't think I should have looked at this before breakfast. Not at all.

Anonymous Riv said...

atila is correct. Not only do the number of eyes give it away, but how about the legs? I don't think I've ever seen an ant with eight legs.

Anonymous Ruben said...

Ok, I have to leave some comment: Some damn nice shots!! Greetings from the Netherlands!!

Anonymous Atila said...

:) Thanks!

Anonymous Igor Santos said...

Good job, Atila!
Spiders are cool.

Anonymous SlyRoxy said...

Not a spider fan but this was really interesting. Though I was leary of the video. Didnt think spiders could be funny but you prooved me that was quite funny. The spider ants were just down right cool. Never heard of such a thing but its neat how nature works. Thank you for the great post.

Blogger Mara said...

Beautiful and amasing!
Thank you so much!

Mara - Spider fan from Russia.

Anonymous Barry Wah Lee said...

Very Nice

Blogger kaleidoscopic said...

*shudder* Spiders really creep me out, but still an interesting post. Only problem is that I read this just before bedtime.....can't wait for the spider nightmares, lol!

Blogger Vanessa said...

I ADORE spiders, and my all time favourites are Salticidae.
Your pictures are absolutely stunning, I can't get over the detail that you have been able to share with them.
Simply wonderful.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great spider pics the mating spider I Imagine was a male looked and sounded like he was holding two tommy guns. NICE PICS.

Blogger ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

I see yellow death has caught a fly that was imitating a bee.

You need a real stinger now, Mr./Mrs. PhoneyBee!


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