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Crab Spider

Thomisus spectabilis

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Crab Spider • Thomisus spectabilis
An Australian species of the arachnid Thomisus spectabilis, Crab spider, has been found using a cunning tactic on unsuspecting European bees.

Crab spiders in other countries rely on camouflage for ambush, with their body matching the shape and colour of the flowers on which they lurk. The Australian Thomisus spectabilis is white to match the daisies, jasmine and lantana flowers on which they like to live. They also strongly reflect UV light, which makes it very obvious to the honeybees - the spider's favourite prey - which see the ultraviolet. Rather then repelling the bees, the contrast of the spider on the petal attracts them to it.

Marie Herberstein, a researcher from Macquarie University said it appeared to be a case of a foreigner being easily sucked in by a local. The local spiders were exploiting the innate preference of the European bees for flowers with UV patterns on their petals that ‘guide’ them to the pollen. “Honey bees not having evolved with the spiders, are completely naive to this predator,” said Dr Herberstein. “We expect the native bees are not as foolish, and have evolved a strategy to overcome the predator.”

The research, by Dr Astrid Heling of the University of Vienna, Dr Herberstein, and Dr Lars Chittka of the University of London, was published recently in the journal Nature.

Crab spiders get their name form their long front legs and their sideway walk. Sydney has numerous species, but Thomisus spectabilis prefers the warmer climate of Queensland.

Dr Herberstein said it was not often found on native flowers, but was abundant in Brisbane gardens, with their plethora of European flowers that attract the honey bees.

It was an example, she said, of an Australian native that had taken “full advantage of European colonisation.”

Language Common name Where Found
Scientific Classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Arachnida
Order: Araneae
Suborder: Araneomorphae
Section: Dionycha
Superfamily: Thomisoidea
Family: Thomisidae
Tribe: Misumenini
Genus: Thomisus
Species: T. spectabilis

Other links - Crab Spider (Thomisus spectabilis)



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