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Image of the Day: Ant Imposters

Over the course of their lives, the jumping spider Synemosyna formica wears two different ant disguises to fool preying birds.

Mar 20, 2019
Carolyn Wilke

ABOVE: Baby S. formica spiders, bottom left, closely resemble a tiny ant called Crematogaster, top left, while adult S. formica spiders, bottom right, mimic a bigger species called Camponotus, top right.
ALEXIS DODSON 

To thwart the birds that would happily eat them, jumping spiders of the species Synemosyna formica masquerade as ants, researchers from the University of Cincinnati reported at the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology conference in January. 

From above, the spiders appear to have slim bodies with three segments, just like ants, which birds steer clear of to avoid nasty bites. Over the course of their lives, these spider copycats mimic two ant species, taking on the appearance of a bigger ant as they mature. And they don’t just look the part. By wiggling their front legs to imitate the motion of an ant’s antennae, they act it too. 

In profile, the spiders’ curves appear to have a different advantage—they look more like typical spiders, which may help them seduce potential mates, according to the researchers.

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