This spider literally flips for its food

For one tiny Australian spider, somersaulting is the key to taking over ants twice its measurement.

Ants — armed with powerful jaws and generally chemical weapons — are so harmful to spiders that fewer than 1 % of arachnids try and hunt the bugs (SN: 9/8/21). Excessive-speed footage now reveals that the Australian ant-slayer spider (Euryopis umbilicata) can deal with this dangerous prey by leaping over and lassoing its victims with silk.

The searching maneuver hasn’t been found in any other spider species, researchers report September 19 within the Proceedings of the Nationwide Academy of Sciences.

“This acrobatic habits is simply fascinating. I’ve personally by no means seen this type of searching,” says Paula Cushing, an evolutionary biologist and curator of invertebrate zoology on the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, who was not concerned within the research.

Alfonso Aceves-Aparicio, a behavioral ecologist on the Max Plank Institute for Chemical Ecology in Jena, Germany, stumbled throughout the somersaulting spiders whereas strolling residence one night time. A graduate scholar at Macquarie College in Sydney on the time, Aceves-Aparicio was intrigued when he observed darkish dots darting throughout the pale bark of a eucalyptus tree.

The dots have been tiny spiders transferring amongst ants. Instantly, one of many spiders jumped. “I assumed it was making an attempt to flee an ant,” Aceves-Aparicio remembers. “However then I noticed the ant floating and I assumed, woah, there’s one thing occurring right here.”

Aceves-Aparicio borrowed a high-speed digital camera to see what the spiders have been doing in better element. By slowing the motion down, he and his colleagues might see that the spiders have been in reality searching ants in a totally unknown manner.

Most ant-hunting spiders use webs or sneak up on their prey from behind to attenuate threat. However regardless of being smaller than their prey, Aceves-Aparicio’s spiders have been dealing with banded sugar ants (Camponotus consobrinus) head on. Every spider positioned itself in order that it might watch ants as they moved up the tree. As one approached, the spider flipped above its prey. As soon as within the air, the spider latched a thread of silk onto the ant.

Ant-slayer spiders seize their prey by leaping over ants and tagging them with a thread of silk (proven right here in actual time, then sluggish movement) — a leap that lasts all of some milliseconds. The spiders then dart round ants to entice them in additional silk and sweep them off their toes.

This single tethering motion — carried out within the house of milliseconds — decided whether or not the hunt would succeed. If the tether caught, the spider then darted across the ant, deftly encircling them with extra silk and yanking them off their toes to be dragged off and consumed. 

What stands out to Aceves-Aparicio and his colleagues was the method’s effectiveness. Predators like lions and wolves are likely to miss round 50 % of their supposed targets. The success price of the 60 spider hunts that the researchers filmed was a staggering 85 %.

To Aceves-Aparicio, the invention reveals that extraordinary behaviors can disguise in plain sight. “The message right here is to have a bit curiosity and to concentrate,” he says. “There are issues occurring all over the place. We simply should be there to seek out them.”  


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