Jumping spiders are not only known for their incredible hunting skills but also for their mastery of mimicry, an adaptation that allows them to imitate other creatures or objects in their environment. Jumping spiders belonging to the genus Myrmarachne are known for their mimicry of ants. Here are some key points about jumping spider mimicry:
- Myrmarachne: Myrmarachne is a genus of jumping spiders that mimic ants1. They were first described by W. S. MacLeay in 18391. The name “Myrmarachne” is a combination of the Ancient Greek words for “ant”.
- Morphological Mimicry: Myrmarachne spiders have an elongated cephalothorax with relatively long chelicerae that project forward in males. They also have bodies that closely resemble ants and tend to wave their front legs in the air to simulate antennae1. The colors of Myrmarachne spiders can vary from black to yellow, depending on the ant species they are mimicking.
- Protective Benefits: Accurate morphological mimicry by Myrmarachne jumping spiders provides strong protective benefits against predators. By resembling ants, these spiders can avoid being preyed upon by predators that avoid ants.
- Behavioral Mimicry: Myrmarachne spiders mimic not only the appearance but also the behavioral features of ants4. They adopt the zig-zag locomotion pattern of ants and create an antennal illusion by waving their first or second pair of legs in the air.These behavioral adaptations help them further resemble ants and avoid detection by predators.
- Evolution of Mimicry: The evolution of ant mimicry in spiders, including Myrmarachne, is driven by the avoidance of ants by predators such as spider wasps4. Mimicking ants allows these spiders to escape predation and increases their chances of survival4.
- Predatory Mimics: Some spiders, including Myrmarachne species, are aggressive mimics that resemble ants to successfully approach their prey. By mimicking ants, these spiders can get close to their prey without raising suspicion4.
Overall, jumping spiders of the genus Myrmarachne have evolved remarkable mimicry of ants, both in terms of their appearance and behavior. This mimicry provides them with protective benefits against predators and allows them to successfully approach their prey.
Some have evolved to closely resemble ants:
- Body Shape and Color: These spiders have elongated bodies and coloration that mimics the appearance of ants, complete with segmented body sections and even “waists.”
- Antennae-Like Leg Movements: Jumping spiders might mimic the movement of ants’ antennae using their front legs, further enhancing the illusion.
How do ant-mimicking spiders avoid being detected by real ants?
Ant-mimicking jumping spiders have evolved several strategies to avoid being detected by real ants. Here are some ways they do it:
- Morphological Mimicry: Ant-mimicking spiders have evolved to closely resemble ants in their appearance. They have elongated bodies with a “false waist” and reflective hairs that simulate the shiny, three-segmented bodies of ants. They also have colored patches around their eyes to make their simple eyes look more like an ant’s compound eyes. These morphological adaptations help them blend in with ants and avoid detection.
- Behavioral Mimicry: Ant-mimicking spiders also mimic the behavior of ants to avoid detection. They wave their front legs in the air to simulate antennae and adopt an erratic zig-zag pattern of movement that is more like ants than spiders. By mimicking ant behavior, these spiders can avoid being detected by real ants.
- Chemical Mimicry: Some ant-mimicking spiders also produce chemicals that mimic the pheromones of ants. By producing these chemicals, they can further blend in with ants and avoid detection.
- Predatory Mimicry: Some ant-mimicking spiders are also aggressive mimics that use their ant-like appearance to approach and hunt their prey. By mimicking ants, these spiders can get close to their prey without raising suspicion.
Overall, ant-mimicking spiders have evolved several strategies to avoid being detected by real ants, including morphological, behavioral, and chemical mimicry.
Are there any other animals that mimic ants?
Yes, there are many animals that mimic ants. Here are some examples:
- Spiders: Spiders are the most common ant mimics, with over 300 species known to mimic ants. These spiders mimic the appearance and behavior of ants to avoid being preyed upon by predators that avoid ants. Some spider mimics are also aggressive and use their ant-like appearance to approach and hunt their prey.
- Beetles: Several species of beetles mimic ants, including some longhorn beetles in the genus Euderces4. These beetles have elongated bodies that resemble ants and may also mimic ant behavior to avoid detection by predators.
- Moths: Some moths have evolved to mimic ants, including the caterpillars of the moth genus Ctenuchidae1. These caterpillars have a distinctive ant-like appearance that helps them avoid predation by birds and other predators.
- Mantises: Some species of praying mantises mimic ants to avoid detection by predators. These mantises have elongated bodies and legs that resemble ants, and they may also mimic ant behavior to avoid being detected.
- Flies: Some species of flies mimic ants to avoid predation by spiders. These flies have elongated bodies and legs that resemble ants, and they may also mimic ant behavior to avoid detection.
Overall, many animals have evolved to mimic ants, either to avoid predation or to approach and hunt their prey. Spiders are the most common ant mimics, but other insects such as beetles, moths, mantises, and flies also use this strategy.
Spider Wasp Mimicry
They can also mimic spider wasps, which are known for their potent stings:
- Color and Size: These mimicking spiders have bright colors and patterns that resemble those of spider wasps. They even mimic the wasps’ size and shape.
- Wasp-Like Movements: Some jumping spiders imitate the jerky, rapid movements of wasps, making them appear more intimidating to potential predators.
Behaviour and Ecology
- How Do Jumping Spiders Communicate?
- Unveiling the Appetite of Jumping Spiders
- The Amazing Parental Care of Jumping Spiders
- Social Behaviour Among Jumping Spiders
- Jumping Spider Camouflage Strategies
- Courtship and Mating in Jumping Spiders
- Jumping Spider Hunting Techniques
- Behavioural Patterns of Jumping Spiders
Bird Dropping Mimicry
Yes, you read that right. Some jumping spiders look like… bird droppings:
- Camouflage as a Defense: By resembling bird droppings, these spiders effectively avoid being eaten by predators that might mistake them for something unappetizing.
They take on the appearance of flowers to catch unsuspecting prey:
- Petals and Pollen: These spiders have color patterns and shapes that mimic flowers. They might even position themselves on or near real flowers.
- Luring Prey: Unsuspecting insects, mistaking the spider for a flower, come in close, only to become the spider’s next meal.
Jumping spider mimicry is a testament to the diversity of survival strategies in the animal kingdom. Whether imitating ants, wasps, bird droppings, or flowers, these agile arachnids demonstrate their remarkable ability to adapt and thrive in various environments. Their mimicry techniques showcase nature’s creativity and the complex ways in which species interact and evolve over time.