This Hungry Spider's Hunting Tip Looks Like Bird Poop

It almost sounds like a playground taunt: you look like bird poo and smell it too. For the aptly named bird poop crab spiders that resi...


It almost sounds like a playground taunt: you look like bird poo and smell it too.

For the aptly named bird poop crab spiders that reside in the tropical rainforests of Southeast Asia, such looks and smells are essential to survival in a world where people eat or drink. that we eat.

“All spiders are predators, but they also have their own predators,” said Daiqin li, biologist at the National University of Singapore. The glossy black-and-white patterns and the foul smell of the spiders are part of a disgusting masquerade that deceives predators who would otherwise seek to eat spiders – after all, birds tend to avoid ingesting what they have. already completely digested.

But the mimicry of bird manure spiders serves yet another role.

According to a study published last month in Current Zoology, the spider’s fecal facade attracts prey as well as warding off predators – the first masked species described to use what researchers call aggressive mimicry to actively attract into their lunch.

Previous research has speculated that the spider-crab masquerade might attract unlucky insects. But until now, no one had experimental evidence. Still, the idea made sense because for many insect species, bird droppings are both attractive sources of nutrients and inviting homes to lay their eggs. Crab spiders are also waiting predators, preferring to ambush unsuspecting prey that lands on their leaves.

“They stay there for more than 12 hours or more,” Dr Li said. “Sometimes they stay there all their lives. “

To test the hypothesis, the researchers first filmed spiders in the wild sitting on leaves and compared the ensuing insect swarms with those attracted to the droppings of birds of similar size. (Dr Li noted that they had to make sure the droppings were “wet enough” because dry droppings didn’t attract many insects.)

Insects visited both spiders and bird droppings at significantly higher rates than empty leaves. Spiders attracted insects, especially flies, although real droppings attracted them at a higher rate.

Then, to test whether the characteristic color combination of the spiders was the key to fooling certain insects, the researchers applied an odorless watercolor paint to manipulate the colors of the spiders. Spiders painted all white or all black were less attractive to insects than spiders unpainted or painted the same color they already were, meaning that looking like bird droppings was the key to deception. . (The paint was easily washed off with drops of water when the researchers finished observing the spiders.)

The researchers also modeled what the insects would see in their visual system and found that the unlucky prey might not be able to tell the difference between a hungry spider and real bird droppings.

Not that we humans can do much better.

“A lot of people wouldn’t even be able to distinguish a spider from bird droppings,” said Stano Pekar, a zoologist from Masaryk University in the Czech Republic who was not involved in the study and said his results were impressive. “I mean, they have a really great masquerade.”

The results opened up new questions about the evolution of manure deception. Other crab spider species wear different patterns and proportions of white and black on their bodies, which can affect how compelling their disguise is to insects, Dr Li said. The most “typical” crab spiders are green and white, which allows them to blend in with the leaves; they also do not smell of bird droppings and attract far fewer flies.)

Other animals have also evolved to impersonate inedible or inanimate objects for protection from predators – the larvae of the first spiny butterflies look like twigs, and the leafy butterflies look like dead leaves. But researchers rarely study whether the coloring tips can serve more than one purpose in the same species. That could change, Dr Pekar said.

“I think in the future,” he said, “we’ll see many more instances where the coloring or pattern will be both defensive and offensive.”

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Newsrust - US Top News: This Hungry Spider's Hunting Tip Looks Like Bird Poop
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