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Male and female crab spiders found to 'cooperate' to mimic a flower to fool prey and predators

Male and female crab spiders found to 'cooperate' to mimic a flower to fool prey and predators
Credit: Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment (2024). DOI: 10.1002/fee.2721

A pair of environmental scientists at Yunnan University, in China, has found an instance of a pair of spiders, one male, the other female, working together to create the image of a flower, thereby fooling both prey and predators.

In their project, published in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, Shi-Mao Wu and Jiang-Yun Gao were exploring a in Xishuangbanna in a southwest China when they came across a that was clearly attempting to mimic the flowers around it. Upon closer inspection, they found that what they were seeing was actually two spiders, one on top of the other, cooperatively resembling a single flower.

Cooperative mimicry has never before been observed in any , the researchers note. This adaption requires both participants to create a convincing camouflage. They suggest their finding appears to be the first.

The spiders are part of the Thomisidae family of crab spider—they survive by blending into the background to prevent being seen by predators and to help them ambush prey. They typically live on or near flowers. Most are known for their ability to blend in with the flowers around them—some have even been observed changing colors to remain invisible.

The pair observed by Wu and Gao were a male and a female. The female took on the appearance of fused pale white petals, while the male, which sat on the female's back and was much smaller, took on the appearance of a pistil. They note that the female's coloration was similar to the petals of the flowers around the pair, while the darker colors of the male were a close match to the inner parts of the flowers around them. It took both of them, the researchers noted, to match the coloration of the complete Hoya pandurata flowers around them.

The researchers suggest more study of the spider species is needed to determine if their behavior is consistent across multiple members and to better understand their .

More information: Shi‐Mao Wu et al, Male and female crab spiders "cooperate" to mimic a flower, Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment (2024). DOI: 10.1002/fee.2721

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Citation: Male and female crab spiders found to 'cooperate' to mimic a flower to fool prey and predators (2024, March 26) retrieved 27 May 2024 from https://phys.org/news/2024-03-male-female-crab-spiders-cooperate.html
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