High on my to-do list in Ecuador was Pachycondyla villosa. This is a large, wasp-like predatory ant coated with fine golden hairs. After some looking, one morning I finally spotted a worker foraging in the understory at Jatun Sacha. I came in for a closer look:

Sphecotypus niger

Approaching within ten inches I realized something wasn’t right. Even though the animal moved just like P. villosa, and even though the sun glinted off its elongate body at just the right hue, the antennae were slightly…weird.

They were, in fact, an extra pair of legs. I had found Sphecotypus niger, an ant-mimicking spider.

Here’s a shot of true Pachycondyla villosa, the model:

Pachycondyla villosa

Why mimic this ant? My personal experience is that the first thing most people notice about P. villosa is THE STING REALLY HURTS. I’m not kidding. It’s like a honey bee x 4.

The smarter predators in the forest leave Pachycondyla well enough alone, and the perfectly harmless spider presumably avoids a fair amount of predation as a mimic.

(Thanks to Jonathan Reiskind for confirming the ID.)

photo details:
Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 macro lens on a Canon EOS 7D
Diffuse external strobe