An oft-used survival strategy in nature is to mimic something you’re not, either to ambush unsuspecting prey or to convince predators that you’re not tasty!
On a warm summer night in April 2015, we headed out on a night trail in the evergreen forests of Agumbe, Karnataka. We were quite happy to see a few snakes, scorpions and frogs. We were still on the trail when I noticed something unusual. Initially I dismissed it as a fallen dried leaf. But for a second, it moved just a bit. That’s when I started paying attention. On a closer look, we were amazed to realize that it was indeed a spider looking exactly like a fallen leaf!
After watching the spider being very active at night, we took a few photos and moved on. The next day we walked the same trail and scanned the entire place but we failed to locate the spider. We decided to go and inspect in the night again. To our surprise, we could see the spider active tending its web. We couldn’t ID the spider in the field and we just named him as “Ganesha” spider as it resembled the Lord himself!
For a long time, the ID of this spider was unknown to me and I was on a keen lookout for any leads. In November 2016, to my surprise I stumbled upon an article written in Live Science about the discovery of a similar spider still new to science. The note mentioned only two specimens from China and a few from Malaysia. I decided to write to the author — Matjaz Kuntner from the Smithsonian Institute and the Evolutionary Zoology Laboratory in Slovenia — to confirm if the “Ganesha” spider from Agumbe was the same one described from China. It indeed was and belonged to the Poltys (Araneidae) genus, according to the author. Also, this was the first spider from the Poltys genus to pretend to be a leaf. A big breakthrough for me!
If any of you encounter this spider, please email Matjaz Kuntner (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Chosen as 'Picture of the Week'
An oft-used survival strategy in nature is to mimic something you're not, either to ambush unsuspecting prey or to convince predators that you're not tasty! This unique new species of spider masquerades as a leaf!