Spiders act like ants to avoid getting eaten | A perfect protective mimicry

Protective Mimicry of Spiders - Spiders act as ants

Spiders or ants – which of them appear scarier? Well, I doubt there’s anybody out there who’s scared of ants, but no doubt, there are plenty who shriek at the very thought of a spider. I guess it has a lot to do with their poisonous bite, especially that of a black widow’s. So, be prepared to get shocked when we say that recent studies have proved that spiders walk like ants to avoid getting preyed upon! A recent study found that spiders are also perfect in protective mimicry.

Protective Mimicry of Spiders - Spiders act as ants

Spiders imitate ants when attached

Spiders act like ants to avoid troubles. This was found by a recent study that was conducted by a research team at the Cornell University.

The team used multiple sets of high speed, high resolution cameras to make their observations. They conducted some behavioral tests on the spiders as well. The cameras effectively captured the spiders’ movement mimicking that of an ant.

The most common species of spiders that engage in this mode of self-protection is the Myrmarachne formicaria.

Protective Mimicry

Scientists have termed the act of animals acting or pretending like another for their survival, as ‘Protective mimicry’. They believe that this is a crucial stage of evolution to adapt to the environment. It is of no surprise, that there are many other animals that can be added to the list of animals that take to protective mimicry. Moths may appear colorful like beautiful butterflies and grasshoppers, like tiger-beetles. Another example would be the act of a female cuckoo laying her eggs in the nests of other birds (and destroying a few of the host bird’s eggs in the process). These host birds without realizing the difference, hatch the cuckoo eggs as well.

Why imitate the ‘ants’?

Now the question that pops up in our heads would be, why do the spiders specifically imitate the ants as part of their protective mimicry? Due to the obvious reason, that ants have an aggressive nature. You’ll probably not disagree that they are quick to bite and sting. The enemy hardly even notice an ant till it feel the sudden pang of pain from its bite. Ant stings consist of a chemical called formic acid.

Note: Use a hydrocortisone cream to relieve yourself from the itching caused by an ant bite.

So, it is not surprising that many insects predators prefer to prey on a spider than an ant. Hence, on being attacked, the spider quickly runs on all its eight legs with pauses in between to gently lift their foreleg, thus mimicking an ant. The spider also takes a twisting course of movement.

How do the predators fall so easily for this trick? Well, most insects have poor eye sight and slow visual comprehension, proving to be an advantage to the spiders, which are quick to transition to their “ant-mode”.

The researchers hope that similar studies may lead to bigger findings that could help them create a link between “the dynamic behavior and the observer perception in mimicry”. This may also provide them with a deeper insight into how certain animals evolved to the beings that they are presently and how they could further evolve in future.

If you know more protective mimicry among animals, please do mention about it in our comments below…

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