Monday


If you previously thought that jumping spiders used only six of their eight legs to walk, you might need to reconsider. A new "breakthrough" scientific paper published in in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, shows that, contrary to what was previously thought, the ant mimicking spiders actually don't walk on six legs in an attempt to trick the predators into thinking they look like an ant, but rather they walk on all their eight legs with a tricky catch. 


Those small clever creatures have a nice little trick up their sleeves, they take 100 millisecond pauses to raise their front legs to emulate an ant's antennae. Paul Shamble, the study lead researcher, used high-speed cameras to answer the long standing question about whether the jumping spiders were actually walking on six legs all the time of if it was simply a temporary move that was part of their deception strategy. The team found that these tiny spiders normally walk on eight legs, but they take tiny pauses to lift their front legs. Because of their small size and these micro pauses, whenever an observer looks at them, he sees a six legged creature with antennae.

The jumping spider's fascination with ants didn't stop here, as the researchers also discovered that they walk like ants too. Spiders, in general, have a distinct walking pattern: They walk a little bit, then they stop and so on. The jumping spider's imitation endeavor made them walk back and forth with no noticeable stops at all, just like ants.

Another thing the researchers found is that the 100 millisecond pause duration is not random. It looks like these spiders hit the jackpot with this timing, because if they were any faster, the predators would not be able to process the information. On the other hand, if they were slow in their pauses, the predators would easily figure out their deception attempt.

Now, you might be wondering: why would such a small creature go to extreme lengths to mimic ants? 

The answer lies in the mindset of the predators. Eating ants is often a dangerous business for most predators, because many ant species produce formic acid and they are very aggressive as well. On top of that, they offer very little nutritional value since their bodies are largely made of exoskeleton. So by mimicking ants, these clever spiders knew that most predators are likely to avoid them. This is evolution at its finest!

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