Decoy-Building Unidentified Spider Species Discovered

By Nick Venable | 8 years ago

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While I don’t have a fear of spiders or anything — and don’t you try and test that non-fear — but I do have a distrust and dislike for them. Mostly because I’m not fond of anything that could possibly fall from the ceiling into my mouth while I sleep. But that’s all right, because I understand their worth in nature; I can’t just disrupt the ecosystem because I don’t want to go from a sleeping nightmare into a waking one. But now researchers have discovered a spider in Peru that threatens to taint my dreams forevermore. Well, not really. But maybe.

In a recent blog post written for Rainforest Expeditions, biologist Phil Torres recorded his findings of around 25 spiders in a floodplain area around the Tambopata Research Center. The spider itself is quite possibly a member of the genus Cyclosa, part of a species that has never been seen before. One more species among the other 38,000 or so isn’t all that bad. Except these build decoys of themselves around five times bigger than their body sizes. (faint)

Okay, so the actual decoy isn’t that scary in and of itself. The spiders in question are only around 5 mm long, which puts the decoys at only an inch in length. So it’s not the size of the decoy, but the motion of the web shaking. Because yes, after the spider builds its relatively gigantic clone out of leaves, debris, and its dead insect prey, the spider itself hides just above its gangly doppelgänger and shakes the web, making the faux-rachnid appear as if it’s in motion. The Cyclosa genus is known for its mold-building distractions, but this is the only case of dropping legs and movement. Of course, not everyone is a prodigy. “Some of the decoys placed in the webs looked rather realistic. Others resembled something more like a cartoon octopus,” says Torres.

Should the spider indeed be a newbie to scientists, Torres will then have the pleasure of choosing a name for it. Though they only found a small number, he seems optimistic about discovering more. “They could be quite locally restricted,” he said. “But for all I know, there’s millions of them in the forest beyond.”

I’m going to have this in mind when I watch the IT miniseries next time. As if a live spider dropping in my mouth while I sleep was bad enough, now I’m going to worry about debris’n’moth mock-ups drying out my throat.

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