Mimicry is among the most studied topic in Natural History and camouflage can be really striking sometimes. The day I found my first dung-mimic spider (Phrynarachne sp.) in Borneo I understood once again why.
“Let’s go along the road, I found it’s much easier to find them in more disturbed areas on Manioca leaves instead of pristine primary forest”, so my guide Nicola Messina advised me and of course, I happily agreed (no long hikes for once!). After a nice walk scrutinizing each leaf at the edge of the road (finding many nice invertebrates like flower mantis and brilliantly colored beetles) we reached a open parking-like area with many Manioca plants everywhere. That was a perfect spot to look for my dung-mimic, and of course, there it was, in good numbers also! We found two in a few minutes. One was doing the “stand and bait” typical of this species, alone on its web, confident that its shape and its web around could fool bigger predators like birds and maybe even attract some flies. That was amazing! The spider also smells like bird dung and it has a glossy appearance that make the “watery fresh bird dung” appearance even more strikingly correct. Holding its leg close to the body finishes the “shitty” appearance.
The other one even added its last preys to the “architecture” of the dung. Mimicry experts say that we shouldn’t always think about camouflage only by our own human perspective, but I really think that in this case the dung resemblance is so amazing that even the sharp-sighted birds and reptiles would be easily fooled.
Finally we were also able to take some shots of the first one of the two catching a small prey (a small wasp) that came to it (probably attracted by our torches, ouch!).
This was the night before my 36 years birthday, so I call it my “b-day present from Nature“! How much one can be happy to find a dung-mimic spider?
A lot, believe me!