Vegetarian Spider Lives By Its Own Rules

In a surprise discovery, scientists have discovered the first known mostly vegetarian spider in the jungle mountains of Costa Rica and Mexico. The Bagheera kiplingi was observed feasting not on flies or gnats but on the buds of the acacia plant. Science has known about the Bagheera kiplingi since the late 1800's when naturalists collected dead specimens of them. This is the first time, however, that its behavior was logged.

i-8d2c806bde6e699b9b039195ed18ef9d-Spider Vegetarian.jpg

Um, excuse me. There isn't any gelatin in this plant bud, is there?

Christopher Meehan of University of Arizona in Tucson studied the spiders (while at Villanova), also noting that they had to constantly keep a watchful eye out for the ant species that share the acacia habitat. The ants aggressively protect the plant from intruders in exchange for food and housing, and the spiders must hop from thorn to thorn to avoid them.

"It is utterly surreal," Meehan said to National Geographic, "to see a spider use such effective hunting strategies to hunt a plant."

It is also important to note that the spider does occasionally fall off the wagon and eat ant larvae.

More like this

In Latin America, there lives a unique spider called Bagheera kiplingi. It's a jumping spider and it shares the group's large, acute eyes and prodigious leaping ability. But it also has a trait that singles it out among all 40,000 species of spider - it's mostly vegetarian. Virtually all spiders…
In the forests of South Africa lurks an arachnophobe's nightmare - Nephila kowaci, the largest web-spinning spider in the world. The females of this newly discovered species have bodies that are 3-4 centimetres in length (1.5 inches) and legs that are each around 7.5cm long (3 inches). This new…
This week the blogosphere is busy recapping 2007 with lists of top stories in politics, news, and celebrity haircuts. In all the hoopla surrounding year's end, somehow everyone seems to have forgotten the ants, even though the, um, fast-paced world of Myrmecology has made plenty of discoveries…
In East Africa lives a species of spider that drinks mammalian blood. But fear not - Evarcha culicivora is an indirect vampire - it sates its thirst by preying on female mosquitoes that have previously fed on blood themselves. Even though its habitat is full of non-biting midges called "lake…

The spider is eating protein and lipid rich Beltian bodies. These specialized structures grow on the tips of the Accacia leaflets and are eaten by the symbiotic ants.

By Jim Thomerson (not verified) on 17 Oct 2009 #permalink

spiders are SO cool.

If this had been posted on April 1st, I would have said, "yeah right blemmies!" I thought I knew spiders. I've loved them all my life. At one point I'd considered graduate studies in arachnology but I DIDN'T KNOW THIS!


Even worse-they belong to my favorite grouping of spiders, the Salticids.

Who am I? What is my name? What is up? Am I real???

By Arachnophile (not verified) on 22 Oct 2009 #permalink