And Now... a Spider Masquerading as Bird Poop
Life as a spider isn't the easiest. As hydraulic beasts, the tiniest wound in the right spot could render them completely unable to move. Moreover, spiders get no love from humans, even though they keep disease-spreading mosquitoes in check. Eight-legged critters also have predators like birds and larger insects to contend with.
Given their thankless predicament, spiders struggle to get by through any means necessary. Two of their more fascinating methods are masquerading -- pretending to be an inanimate object -- and mimicry -- disguising themselves as another species. Spiders are known to impersonate objects like branches and thorns, as well as insects. There are also those that disguise themselves as bird poop. Yep, bird poop.
The aptly named bird dropping spider (pictured just above) is one such arachnid. But it isn't the only one; Taiwanese life scientists may have just found another in the tropical forests of East Asia: Cyclosa ginnaga. They detail the finding in Scientific Reports.
Unlike the bird dropping spider, C. ginnaga doesn't benefit from looking like a turd, so it has to get creative. With prodigious weaving skills, it decorates part of its web to look like a splash of dropping, then splays itself out on top. (See the top image.)
The researchers who revealed the behavior admit that they can't be totally certain that the spiders are trying to resemble a dropping, but gathered evidence seems to point in that direction. The decorations are all roughly the same size as bird droppings within the spiders' habitat, and analyses show that their predators -- mostly wasps -- can't tell the difference between the C. ginnaga's crappy handiwork and the real thing.
Though the researchers observed the spiders' behavior in their native habitat for hundreds of hours, they suggest that further analysis be conducted to validate the discovery.
Source: Liu, M.-H., Blamires, S.J., Liao, C.-P. & Tso, I.-M. Evidence of bird dropping masquerading by a spider to avoid predators. Sci. Rep. 4, 5058; DOI:10.1038/ srep05058 (2014).