These tiny leaping spiders stroll like ants to evade predators

The colorful jumping spider <em>Siler collingwoodi</em> mimics the walk of an ant to evade predators.
Enlarge / The colourful leaping spider Siler collingwoodi mimics the stroll of an ant to evade predators.

Hua Zeng

We usually consider camouflage in nature when it comes to bodily coloration, enabling the species to mix in with the background and evade predators. However earlier research have documented locomotor mimicry in some species, like swallowtail butterflies and clearwing moths, in addition to the leaping spider Myrmarachne formicaria, which mimics the limb use and normal motion of ants. The latter is an instance of good mimicry, typically assumed to be simplest when it comes to evading predators.

However Hua Zeng, an ecologist at Peking College in China, and colleagues had been intrigued by the colourful leaping spider Siler collingwoodi, which displays imperfect mimicry, and determined to run some lab experiments to find out how this would possibly confer protecting advantages Additionally they got down to discover the effectiveness of the spider’s coloration as a camouflage technique, describing their leads to a new paper printed within the journal iScience.

“In contrast to typical ant-mimicking spiders that mimic the brown or black physique colour of ants, S. collingwoodi has sensible physique coloration,” said Zeng. “From a human’s perspective, it appears to mix effectively with crops in its setting, however we wished to check whether or not their physique coloration served as camouflage to guard in opposition to predators.”

The workforce first observed the locomotor mimicry whereas gathering samples of S. collingwoodi from 4 areas in southern Hainan. The spiders tailored what the authors time period a “stop-and-go” strolling sample much like ants, which entails extending its first pair of legs up and ahead, basically mimicking an ant’s antenna. For his or her experiments, additionally they collected 5 completely different species of ants that shared the setting with the spiders, in addition to a non-ant-mimicking leaping spider, Phintelloides versicolor. Lastly, they collected samples of two potential predators: one a species of spider that hunts and consumes different spiders, and the opposite a praying mantis, a extra generalist predator with a monochromatic visible system.

First, Zeng et al. analyzed the trajectory and gait of S. collingwoodi and the 5 species of ants. Here is how an ant walks:

And here is how the Siler collingwoodi leaping spider mimics that stroll:


The authors famous marked similarities, significantly with the smaller ant species that had been roughly the identical measurement because the spider. Along with elevating their entrance legs, S. collingwoodi bobbed their abdomens. “S. collingwoodi will not be essentially an ideal mimic, as a result of its gait and trajectory present excessive similarity with a number of ant species,” said Zeng. “Being a normal mimic fairly than completely mimicking one ant species may benefit the spiders by permitting them to increase their vary if the ant fashions occupy completely different habitats.”

Subsequent, they examined the effectiveness of this ant-mimicking protection technique with a collection of anti-predation experiments, exposing each S. collingwoodi and the non-mimicking Phi. versicolor to the predatory spiders and praying mantises. Given the selection, the predator spiders had been extra more likely to assault the non-mimicking leaping spiders, whereas praying mantises attacked each equally. The authors recommend that this is because of measurement. For the smaller predatory spider, by accident ingesting a spun ant may trigger harm, which might not be a priority for the a lot bigger praying mantis.

As for the brilliant physique coloration of S. collingwoodi, Zeng et al. performed a background matching colour evaluation of these spiders with the 5 ant species and the non-mimicking spiders, in addition to two frequent crops favored by S. collingwoodi: the red-flowering West Indian jasmine, and the Fukien tea tree. S. collingwoodi proved to be higher hidden from predatory spiders and praying mantises when lurking on jasmine crops fairly than tea timber. The authors concluded that this species of leaping spider depends on a mix of imperfect ant mimicry and coloration camouflage to push back predators.

DOI: iScience, 2023. 10.1016/j.isci.2023.106747  (About DOIs).