December 20, 2012 9:31 am
Deep in the Peruvian Amazon, a spider is at work building an elaborate, fake decoy of itself. In its web, it busily goes to working crafting its doppelgänger out of leaves, debris and dead prey insects, including multiple spidery legs, a head and abdomen, Wired reports.
The new spider, thought to be a member of the genus Cyclosa, might build these decoys as part of a defense mechanism to confuse or distract predators. Spiders already make impressive geometric webs, scientists reason, so building other designs isn’t such a leap.
Researchers exploring a floodplain in the forest first learned of the spider when the spotted what they thought was a dead spider caught in a web. It looked flaky, writes Wired, like a fungus-covered arthropod corpse. But the would-be corpse began twitching, and then the researchers noticed a second, smaller spider about an inch above the decoy, shaking her web. The researchers said it “blew their minds.”
Arachnologists soon confirmed that the finding was unique, though more field observations will be needed before the specimen can be confirmed as a new species to science. Other members of Cyclosa are known for building decoys, but those already known to science tend to be clumpy and not nearly as anatomically precise as these examples.
So far, the research team has found around 25 of the clever little spiders. They have no idea if the species is locally restricted or found for miles within the forest. For now, however, the spider mission is on hold. The researchers lack the necessary permits to collect more animals, so until that paperwork comes through in January, arachnologists will be holding their breath.
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