This Spider Is Imperfect, and That May Be the Secret of Its Survival

The researchers then put the S. collingwoodi’s proposed imperfect mimicry to the test with two of its predators: a mantid species and another jumping spider, Portia labiata. For the mantid, both spiders were fair game. But the predatory spider avoided S. collingwoodi and only launched attacks toward the non-mimetic spider, which the researchers interpreted as a sign that ant mimicry worked in some cases.

They also showed that predatory P. labiata would attack an injured S. collingwoodi that was unable to mimic an ant. But in that case there is an alternative explanation. Perhaps, said Ximena Nelson at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, who was not involved in the study, the S. collingwoodi’s predator “simply classified the impaired animals as precisely that: impaired and potentially easier prey.”

Beyond providing a better understanding of imperfect mimicry itself, work like this is important for conservation, said Marta Skowron Volponi, a biologist at the University of Florence in Italy who was not involved in the research.

“The interaction between species is important to study in order to understand how entire ecosystems function,” Dr. Skowron Volponi said. “In order to protect a prey species that is endangered, we should protect everything that is connected with it — the predator, the model and the habitat in which it occurs.”

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