New species of spider builds fake spiders

A new species of spider, found deep within the Peruvian Amazon, builds spider decoys in its web to fool its predators.

The decoy spider made out of dead insects.
(Credit: Phil Torres)

A new species of spider, found deep within the Peruvian Amazon, builds spider decoys in its web to fool its predators.

Not only that, the cunning arachnids — believed to be of the Cyclosa genus — then act as puppeteers, twitching the web to make its larger replica appear alive.

The decoy spider is about four times the size of the actual spider, built out of any bits of debris that come the spider's way, including plant matter and the broken carapaces of its victims.

The spider was discovered in December by scientists Jeff Cremer and Phil Torres, who were working at the Tambopata Research Center in the Amazon.

Of the spider's construction, Torres noted:

You could call it a spider decoy, in a sense. The spiders arrange debris along specialised silk strands called stabilimenta in a symmetrical form that makes it look almost exactly like a larger spider hanging in the web. Studies have found that some Cyclosa species have a higher survival rate against potential predators like paper wasps, because the wasps end up attacking the debris in the web rather than the spider itself. As seen here, Cyclosa can make debris look a bit like a spider, but not nearly as detailed as the spiders found at the Tambopata Research Center, which have a complex form that actually looks like a bigger version of themselves, complete with legs and all.

The two scientists — accompanied by Destin of science YouTube channel Smarter Every Day — also did something we rarely get to see: they filmed their discovery. So we get to experience the excitement as they encounter something never before seen in the animal kingdom.


About the author

Michelle Starr is the tiger force at the core of all things. She also writes about cool stuff and apps as CNET Australia's Crave editor. But mostly the tiger force thing.


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