Did you know that there is a spider that spends its time building lifelike spider effigies out of discarded leaves, twigs, and dead insect bodies? Now, however frightened you are, take that and multiply it by two. Because there are actually two entirely separate species of spiders, both independently building spider effigies.
Wired reports on the two species, one found in Peru by entomologist Phil Torres (whose work you may remember from these past mysterious spider constructions) and the other in the Philippines by entomologist Larry Reeves.
Finding two spiders that make such similar designs, 11,000 miles apart, has left scientists wondering how the behavior evolved and if the decoys serve as lures for prey or as an anti-predator defense system. The discoveries also suggest there may be even more sculpting arachnids. You just have to know what to look for.
What you look for, it turns out, is a really, really big fake-spider, with an even smaller spider sitting right at its center (which is where the spiders sometimes like to hang out after construction is compete).
Of course, the discovery of the two species raises some interesting questions about the evolutionary processes that led the spiders to spider-decoy construction. It also raises the question of just how many more of these things there might be out there. The answer, say scientists, is perhaps very, very many:
It's also possible that similar predation pressures have driven an example of convergent evolution, in which both species independently found it beneficial to construct grand, spidery illusions. Because the decoys are so large, it does seem as though the structures are more likely playing a defensive role. Reeves and Torres don't yet know why two spiders, a world apart, are building decoys in their webs. But they do think it's likely that undiscovered decoy-building spiders are sculpting false arachnids in trees all over the world.
"I don't think it's surprising that this happening," Reeves said. "I think that no one's noticed in the past is surprising."
Video: Smarter Every Day