Photo Adventures with Curiosity and Learning

November 4, 2007:A new spider Parawixia dehaani that masters the fine art of camouflage

This morning, I returned to my spot and found nothing. No Leucauge, no Miagrammopes, basically no nothing. I was sort of walking around when I saw a small red-orange cricket on a stalk of grass. My initial thought was not to bother - but I know that as soon as I set up and sit in the same place for longer than 100 msec, something interesting almost always happens. Today was not a disappointment. I found a really neat new spider (preliminary identification by Matjaz Kuntner as a juvenile Parawixia dehaani) while watching the cricket - a spider that has mastered the art of camouflauge. She was wrapping either breakfast or dinner and accidentally I disturbed her web. She instantly dropped to the ground - and then after about 15 min, climbed back up to work on her dinner. While she was out - a couple of wasps thought dinner looked great for them also. Her behavior was reproducible so that I then set up a video camera and recorded her dropping from her prey onto the ground, climbing back up and the wasp attach. If I have the energy, I shall add video here.

This is the cricket that started the chain of events. What about those hyper-long antennae?

nov 04 8406 cricket antennae nov 04 8423 orange cricket long antennae

Here are the two wasps, taken from the video - not great but you get the idea.

nov 04 00134 2 wasps

Here our little lady (Parawixia dehaani) is wrapping a bee for dinner - dorsal and side. Note that she is missing her 4th right leg - so hangs on by one leg.

nov 04 8345 wrapping bee 4 dinner nov 04 8347 wrapping dinner

ventral and a little web repair - and again - with only 1 4th leg

nov 04 8348 wrapping dinner ventral nov 04 8360 wrapping dinner

Her cephalothorax seems quite flexible. Here you see it (right) and I can't find it (left). Her missing 4th right leg, though, is quite obvious.

nov 04 8364 cephalothorax eyes nov 04 8366 no cephalothorax

These guys have 8 eyes, typically arranged in two rows of 4 eyes. Four eyes are easily identified at the front of her cephalothorax: two toward the center and one on either side. I have made a new discovery - flash photos of spiders can exhibit red eye as seen here. It seems that my flash is reflected in the two peripheral eyes as well as the left (spider's) central eye and appear orange.

nov 04 8427 4 eyes 3 reflections nov 04 8435 eyes

Here are two presentations of camouflage - and on the left and right, a couple of the eyes have red eye

nov 04 8464 camouflage spider eye nov 04 8470 camouflage spider dinner

While letting the video do its thing - I was walking about and here was a skipper that was photo sensitive. Her wings were open (left) but after a flash - she closed her wings (right).

nov 04 8478 skipper before flash nov 04 8479 skipper after flash

Then back to the spider - so many interesting aspects to her behavior. She seems a contortionist for sure

nov 04 8548 preparing dinner

Here she is in the upside down camouflage configuration ( ventral side up:left) and rightside up camouflage configuration (dorsal side up: right)

nov 04 8553 upside down camouflage nov 04 8555 rightside up camouflage

Here is the wasp looking for dinner (my still camera is much better than the video camera)

nov 04 8571 wasp dinner

Two more presentations

nov 04 8575 wasp suspended dinner nov 04 8582 wasp dinner

Then the fun began - a survey party appeared - which is quite unusual because almost no one visits my spider spot

nov 04 8604 survey party part2 nov 04 8606 survey party

Back to the wasp

nov 04 8607 wasp dinner nov 04 8614 wasp dinner

Then our lady of unknown origin reappeared, the wasps left and she continued her dinner prep

nov 04 8625 dinner prep

And some web repair

nov 04 8627 dinner prep web repair

Here is a bit of aerial engineering - you figure the web silk stresses Then she starts a slow getaway - after I stepped on a sensitive patch of grass

nov 04 8630 aerial engineering nov 04 8631 extruding

A bit of one arm web repair

nov 04 8637 1 arm web repair

then down

nov 04 8640 web repair escape nov 04 8641 escape 2


nov 04 8643 escape 3 nov 04 8646 escape 4

and into the camouflage configuration - what appears to be an innocent blob of something on the leaf. So the question for today is - how is the camouflage and escape behavior programmed?

nov 04 8653 camouflage

Wow - what a morning

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C. Frank Starmer