I can’t believe it has taken me- a professional ant photographer- 10 years to photograph enough mimics to populate a simple web gallery. The recent Belize excursion put me over the top, however, thanks to this little Synemosyna jumping spider found by bugguider Metrioptera during our workshop. Follow the link below to view the new gallery:
Aphantochilus rogersi (left) with prey
The most astounding arthropod I found in Ecuador last month wasn’t an ant, believe it or not, although it looks just like one from a few feet away.
Aphantochilus is a crab spider slightly over a centimeter long. The species isn’t exactly uncommon in the Neotropics- in fact, Aphantochilus has appeared previously on Myrmecos. Rather, it is spectacular for its color, size, shape, texture, and movement. Aphantochilus is a convincing stand-in for Cephalotes atratus, the giant turtle ant, and every time I see one lurking about the margins of a turtle ant trail I do a double take and gleefully pass the next half hour watching it work.
Last month’s encounter was the first time I had a camera handy. Thus, some photographs to share with you folks.
A quiet moment
Although it may seem that the spider uses its impressive camouflage to fool its prey, I am not convinced.
The vision of most ants is rather rudimentary, enough that I think it unlikely such remarkable visual mimicry would yield enough of a payoff to be worthwhile. Ants perceive their environment predominately in a chemical medium. Instead, I suspect the spider intends to fool other visual predators- birds, maybe- that would normally pass up acidic chitinous ants but would happily take a spider. For more detailed explorations of the topic, see here and here.
Which is the spider, and which is the ant?
Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 macro lens & 12mm extension tube on a Canon EOS 7D
ISO 200, f/16, 1/250 sec. Indirect strobe bounced off white paper