Antmimicking Jumping Spider

It seems that it's all about the spiders of late. But this little fellow is a real doozy (I don't think I've ever written 'doozy' before ...). Anyway, it's an amazing little critter that at first ... well, let's look at the pics first eh?

Diolenius phrynoides

As you can see in the pic above, a cursory glance at this animal would leave most convinced that it's simply a busy ant scurrying around, being all, well - antish. However, on closer inspection ...

It turns out this 'insect' is actually an arachnid! But the disguise is exquisite don't you think?. It uses its popeye like forelimbs to imitate the appearance of a head, complete with antennae. Once it knows it's been rumbled though, a very spidery face emerges.

Ant mimicry by spiders is actually quite common (here's a link to a previous post the deals with another species Green Ant Mimic Spider).

The real question for me is, what is the spider mimicking the ant for?. Is it as a way of hunting the ants by pretending to be one of their own, or is it as a means of defence against predators that would happily snap up a small spider but that would think twice before tackling a potentially nasty snack?.

Yet another little wildlife mystery that with time I hope to solve.

So until next time, take care - Paul :)

The jumping spider family (Salticidae) contains over 600 described genera and more than 5800 described species, making it the largest family of spiders.

Over 300 species of spider in different families are Batesian mimics of ants, such as Sphecotypus in the Clubionidae. In the Salticidae family, antmimicking spiders can be discerned from the ants around them by the movements they make to keep the ants at an acceptable distance. Ant hunters often do not resemble ants as much.

Even within a closely related group, ant mimicry may have originated several times, as in the Salticidae subfamily Ballinae.

Mimicry has a cost: the body of spider myrmecomorphs is much narrower than non-mimics, which reduces the number of eggs per eggsac, compared to non-mimetic spiders of similar size. They seem to compensate by laying more eggsacs in their lifetime. A study of three species of (predatory) mantises suggested that they innately avoided ants as prey, and that this aversion extends to ant-mimicking Salticidae. ^