This spider is imperfect and may be the secret to its survival

Syler Collingwoody It is a jumping spider that wears a coat of vibrant blue, metallic, orange, and sometimes red. It also makes impressions, imitating the movements of a variety of ant species.

A jumping spider doesn’t mimic ants to get attention — quite the opposite. Ants are aggressively territorial and are known to the insect world for their deadly jaws and use poison and other defensive strategies. Hundreds of spider species ant imitation Avoid exposure eaten by predators.

But the colorful S. collingwoodi does something special among imitators. The researchers found that the jumping spider mimics some traits of several ant species in its habitat. By looking at the ants—but not perfect mimicry—it makes what the researchers call imperfect mimicry. But this deficiency is enough to fool one of the jumping spider’s most dangerous predators.

The researchers also found that the spiders may find another layer of protection by blending into a similarly bright plant in their habitat. the The results have been published Wed in iScience.

When it comes to scaring away a predator, many species try.perfect imitation Because in theory, a near-identical appearance of something scary would make the chances of survival more likely.

“Most studies of spider mimicry have focused on perfect mimicry,” said Hua Zeng, a behavioral scientist at Peking University in China and author of the study. “However, there are also many imperfect mimics, which are worth investigating for their ecological significance.”

While in the field, Dr. Zeng and his colleagues noticed that S. collingwoody displayed walking patterns similar to those of ants. Spiders sometimes even hold their first pair of legs in such a way that it looks like an ant is grasping its antennae.

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The researchers theorized that S. collingwoodi could adopt the movements of more than one species of ant, giving itself more tactics to protect itself from predators. Wei Chang, another author of the study and an evolutionary biologist also at Peking University. A jumping spider may be able to expand its habitat in this way.

To test this idea, the researchers collected S. collingwoodi, a non-mimetic jumping spider, and five species of ants from sites on Hainan Island in southern China. Back in the lab, they compared the locomotion of ants and spiders and found that S. collingwoodi not only displayed false antennae and wobbled its abdomen like an ant, but also showed a similar gait, movement pattern, and speed to many ants. As it went. No other spider showed these similarities.

The researchers then tested the proposed imperfect simulation of S. collingwoodi with two of its predators: a praying mantis species and another jumping spider, Portia labiata. For the mantis, both spiders were fair game. But the predatory spider avoided S. collingwoodi and only launched attacks toward the non-mimicking spider, which the researchers interpreted as a sign that ant mimicry works in some cases.

They also showed that the predator P. labiata would attack an infected S. collingwoody that was unable to mimic an ant. But in this case there is an alternative explanation. Perhaps, said Jimena Nelson at the University of Canterbury, New ZealandPredator S. collingwoodi, who was not involved in the study, specifically classified disabled animals as: vulnerable and likely easier prey.

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In addition to providing a better understanding of the imperfect tradition itself, such work is important for preservation Marta Skowron-Volponi, a biologist at the University of Florence in Italy who were not involved in the research.

“The interaction between species is important to study in order to understand how entire ecosystems function,” said Dr Skowron-Volponi. “In order to protect an endangered prey species, we must protect everything associated with it — the predator, the species and the habitat in which they are found.”

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