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Cornell University
LASSP -  Laboratory of Atomic and Solid State Physics

Cornell Laboratory for Atomic and Solid State Physics

Tsevi Beatus and Itai Cohen study how a spider uses locomotion to mimic an ant

Humans aren’t the only actors on the planet. To avoid being eaten, the ant-mimicking jumping spider pretends to be an ant, according to Cornell research published July 12 in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Ants are aggressive at defending themselves: They are well-armed with bites and stings and formic acid. Ant-mimicking jumping spiders (Myrmarachne formicaria), in contrast, can’t do much more than run on their eight legs when attacked. Not surprisingly, insect predators tend to prefer spiders over ants, so appearing to be an ant confers significant protection.

Protective mimicry is a remarkable example of adaptive evolution: Moths can be colored like butterflies, and grasshoppers may look like tiger beetles. While most mimicry studies focus on traits like color and shape, the researchers used multiple high-speed cameras and behavioral experiments to pinpoint how the spider’s movements mimic ants.

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