Possible new species of spider found that builds fake spider decoys

Dec 19, 2012 by Bob Yirka report
The decoy spider constructed out of leaves. Credit: Phil Torres

(Phys.org)—While traveling with a group of researchers in the Amazon rain forest this past September, biologist Phil Torres came upon a type of spider he'd never seen before. Upon closer inspection, it turned out the spider wasn't a spider at all, but a decoy created by a real spider. He documents the find in a blog post for Rainforest Expeditions.

In consulting with experts in the field, Torres has come to believe that the tiny striped spider is a member of the genus Cyclosa, which are known for adding material to their nests to either attract prey or hide from predators. In this case, it appears the spider has developed a special skill to help it avoid being eating by . Not only does it build pseudo-replicas of itself, in larger form, it shakes the decoy to convince passersby that the fake spider is the real McCoy, causing the fake to be attacked instead of its own tiny self.

The webs of the spiders stand about face high, Torres reports, and are about the size of a stretched-out hand. The spider itself is about a quarter of an inch in length while its decoy is about a full inch. In surveying the area, Torres and colleagues found 25 of the in a single square mile in a in Peru on the western edges of the Amazon. Outside of that area, they found none, though Torres notes that it's possible that beyond the range where they looked, there could be many more.

The actual spider (left) and examples of the constructed, false spiders (right). Credit: Jeff Cremer and Phil Torres.

In examining the decoys, Torres found them to be made up of compiled masses of dead insects, leaf bits and assorted debris. And while each was somewhat different from all the others, the overriding theme was the image of a spider, with legs and a body that resemble the real thing.

Torres isn't sure yet if the spider he's found is a new species – a thorough review process will have to be undertaken before that can be established. Once it passes muster, the findings will then have to be published in a science journal for it to become official.

Explore further: The influence of the Isthmus of Panama in the evolution of freshwater shrimps in America

Related Stories

Australian spider named after David Attenborough

Aug 04, 2012

A newly discovered Australian spider measuring little more than a millimetre in length has been named after celebrated British scientist and broadcaster David Attenborough, reports said Saturday.

Largest spider fossil found in China

Apr 21, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- According to Paul Selden, the director of the Paleontological Institute at the University of Kansas, he and his team members have discovered the largest spider fossil. The fossil was discovered ...

Flying jewels spell death for baby spiders

Mar 02, 2012

Spider flies are a rarely collected group of insects. Adults are considered important pollinators of flowers, while larvae live as internal parasitoids of juvenile spiders. Eight genera are recorded in Aust ...

Male black widows look for well-fed mates

Jul 07, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- According to a new study published in Animal Behaviour, a male black widow spider is able to identify a female spider that has eaten well by simply taking a few steps on the web she spins. ...

Recommended for you

Dogs hear our words and how we say them

19 hours ago

When people hear another person talking to them, they respond not only to what is being said—those consonants and vowels strung together into words and sentences—but also to other features of that speech—the ...

Amazonian shrimps: An underwater world still unknown

20 hours ago

A study reveals how little we know about the Amazonian diversity. Aiming to resolve a scientific debate about the validity of two species of freshwater shrimp described in the first half of the last century, ...

Factors that drive sexual traits

21 hours ago

Many male animals have multiple displays and behaviours to attract females; and often the larger or greater the better.

User comments : 4

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

speakermagnet
5 / 5 (3) Dec 19, 2012
"It's a trap!". I wonder if these supposed decoys allow the spider to convert his paper wasp foes from attacker to prey.
chris_punches
1 / 5 (4) Dec 19, 2012
Uhm. Look at the 'decoy' again. That thing has two arms, two legs, a head, and a midbody appendage. If not a hoax, there are deeper implications of this species' intelligence.
MrVibrating
5 / 5 (1) Dec 19, 2012
Wow, utterly amazing find! What with the recent studies of the cognitive abilities of Portias, the arachnids are fast becoming the class swot of the arthropods...
sirchick
5 / 5 (2) Dec 19, 2012
Uhm. Look at the 'decoy' again. That thing has two arms, two legs, a head, and a midbody appendage. If not a hoax, there are deeper implications of this species' intelligence.


Or it was made correctly but the wind, rain, and the occasional broken web causes it to change in shape. Simple logic.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.