TAMBOPATA, Peru (CBS Las Vegas) – In nature, survival sometimes requires creativity as a living creature evolves and adapts to its surroundings.
In Peru, Los-Angeles-based researcher and entomologist Phil Torres may have discovered a new species of spider that takes survival to a new level – by using immediately available resources to construct decoys of larger spiders.
“From afar, it appears to be a medium-sized spider about an inch across, possibly dead and dried out, hanging in the center of a spider web along the side of the trail,” a post on the blog Peru Nature explained. “Step in even closer and things start to get weird – that spider form you were looking at is actually made up of tiny bits of leaf, debris, and dead insects.”
The spider reportedly does this to scare off potential predators.
Torres, a graduate of Cornell University, said that he was leading researchers around the area of the Tambopata Research Center while speaking with Wired. He told the magazine that the decoy did, from afar, appear to be a real spider.
Upon closer inspection, they noticed a real – and significantly smaller – spider in the same web, located not far above the decoy.
“It blew my mind,” he was quoted as saying.
Though somewhat similar behavior has allegedly been observed in the past in other species of spiders, the level of detail executed in this discovery is unique.
“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,” the blog post on Peru Nature said. “… 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.”
Torres wrote on the blog that next steps in isolating these spiders as a new species include dissections of specimens and other detailed research that would then have to be formally published.
He added, “Only then can it be considered a named new species to science.”