Saturday, December 22, 2012

New species: Spider that makes its own decoys

Decoying is not unknown in the animal worlds, but a creature usually decoys an enemy (or food source with part of its own body, as those weird deep-sea anglers do by hanging little "lanterns" to lure prey in.  Actually manufacturing a decoy that looks like the original animal, though, is a new one.  This spider does that.  This species from the genus Cyclosa is only about 6mm across, but it makes a ghostly decoy of itself more like 25mm across.  Arachnologist Linda Rayor said exactly what I would have said.  “That’s really kind of cool."  It's hard to even speculate on what series of events over time led natural selection to produce a creature with this capability buried in a brain the size of a pinpoint.  Hundreds of new spiders are found each year - biologist Jason Bond just named one for his favorite rock star, christening a new trapdoor spider from Alabama Myrmekiaphila neilyoungi - but sometimes it's what a new species does, not how it looks, that's really mind-blowing.

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