December 20, 2012
Cyclosa Makes Decoy Spider To Attract Predators
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
While salt licks may be one intelligent ploy by man to attract deer for hunting, its got nothing on the method used by one Amazonian arachnid.
One tiny spider in the Peruvian Amazon builds an elaborate decoy spider, and hangs it from its web in order to trick predators into getting stuck in its web.
The artful dodger takes it time crafting up decoys from dead insects, debris and leaves as what scientists suspect is a defense mechanism.
The new species is part of the Cyclosa genus, which includes other sculpting arachnids, none of which have been observed to build spider mimics though. Cyclosa are known for building decoys, but most of those structures are not as elaborate, and are more clumpy.
Scientists discovered the spider in September when they were leading tourists into a floodplain surrounding Peru's Tamboptata Research Center.
"From afar, it appears to be a medium sized spider about an inch across, possibly dead and dried out, hanging in the center of a spider web along the side of the trail," biologist and science teacher Phil Torres wrote in a blog post for eco-tourism firm Rainforest Expeditions.
He said as he approached the decomposing arthropod, it began to wobble back and forth as if it was alive. When approached even closer, the spider form starts to look like it is made up of tiny bits of leaf, debris and dead insect.
"The confusion sets in. How can something be constructed to look like a spider, how is it moving, and what kind of creature made this," Torres wrote in the blog post. "It turns out the master designer behind this somewhat creepy form is in fact a tiny spider."
Torres returned to the area he found the spider and found a further 25 specimens of the spider in the same floodplain. He and his team did not find the spider species in other areas in the region, which suggests they have a restricted range.
The next step for Torres is to return to the area in January to collect samples, in preparation for a study to get the new species officially recognized.
“I have never seen a structure just like this,” William Eberhard, an entomologist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute told Wired.