A possible new species of spider in the Cyclosa genus has been discovered that builds a realistic, larger fake decoy spider to confuse predators (or to lure in prey). The decoy spider is built like a larger version of the spider itself, complete with legs and all, and is about an inch in body length. Its ingenious builder is much smaller, around a quarter of an inch in body length and hides above or behind the decoy. The decoy spider is constructed from bits of leaves, debris, and dead insects and looks exactly like a larger spider hanging in the web. Researchers found about 25 of the spiders in the area surrounding the Tambopata Research Center in the Peruvian Amazon. Specimens are being collected so scientists can determine if it is a new species of spider.
Phil Torres, who described the discovery as “mind blowing”, explains on his blog the excitement and confusion he experienced when the spider was discovered:
“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. Nothing too out of the ordinary for the Amazon. As you approach, the spider starts to wobble quickly forward and back, letting you know this spider is, in fact, alive. 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 confusion sets in. How can something be constructed to look like a spider, how is it moving, and what kind of creature made this!? It turns out the master designer behind this somewhat creepy form is in fact a tiny spider, only about 5mm in body length, that is hiding behind or above that false, bigger spider made up of debris.”