Jumping spiders are very notorious, stealthy hunters and they have evolved some very effective mechanisms to protect themselves from predation. One such, is to mimic ants.
Ant mimicry, or myrmecomorphy, is a phenomenon in which arthropods develop morphological resemblance to ants, either as a means of safeguarding themselves from predators or as an easier way of feeding on the ants. Different kinds of ants, hence, different kinds of mimicry among jumping spiders. The ones mimicking weaver ants, are the leads of this story.
Wherever there are a huge number of weaver ants, one is most likely to find these jumping spiders. The female of these jumpers, looks like an exact replica of a weaver ant, truly mimicking the movement and behaviour of those ants. The males, however, can be distinguished a little easily, owing to their extended pedipalps, stalk like sections, near their mouths.
Last week, when I had been to the Jungle Lodges Resorts, Kabini, in between the safari drives, kept going around the property looking for spiders. That place is a true haven for them. On one such outing, we came across a male, weaver-ant mimic spider. We tried to photograph him, but, looked like, he wasn’t in the mood to cooperate. He constantly kept getting to the underside of a leaf. One other thing that we noticed was that, he was neither moving away quickly, nor was he raising his forelegs and looking towards us, just as a typical jumping spider would have done. His mind seemed to be busy with something else. He was repeatedly coming back to that particular leaf. So, curious, we examined the leaf and saw that there was a small web under it and the spider seemed to be standing guard.
Jumpers are not web weaving spiders. However, they do build a small web to serve as their home. When we took a closer look, we saw that someone had taken residence in that tiny webbed home. It was a female weaver ant mimic spider !
The male kept approaching the web frequently and as time passed, the female decided to show herself, albeit for a few seconds. How much she looked like an ant, a spider in an ant’s clothing !! :-)
It was indeed the breeding time, the male was quite ready and had found a partner. He was now trying to gain her acceptance. However, things weren’t going to be so easy for him. After a few minutes of leaving the couple or to-be couple alone, we came back to take a look and saw that another male had wandered on to the same leaf. Here was an intruder, trying to woo away the female. But, the male, who was there before, didn’t seem to like this a weeny bit. He decided to take on the new male, in a bout, a fight for the right to mate.
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Both the males started sizing themselves up, by spreading their long pedipalps and pushing at each other.
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It was a serious territorial fight, whosoever were to win, he, would gain the right to mate with the female.
This went on for sometime. By the end of it, the intruder had given up and had darted up the tree, to try his luck somewhere else. The reigning male had retained the crown. He had successfully made sure that it would be his genes that would be passed on to the next generation.
This was my first opportunity to witness the amazing territorial behaviour of jumping spiders, was just awesome !