Nature’s Con-Man

After a week of incessant rain the skies had cleared. The rays of the sun shining through the drops made them look like jewels on the green grass and leaves. This looked like a perfect day for some macrophotography. I was combing through the plants and stones in our garden for any form of life.

My attention was drawn to a lone weaver ant, one of my favourites in the insect worlds. These are one of the most hardworking creatures that I know of and most of the times they are excellent subjects for macro photography. I slowly settled down to compose my frame. Something seemed a bit odd. This guy was slow and did not move a lot. Looking through the lens I noticed that the face was not that of a usual weaver ant. Not being a subject expert, I assumed this would be some special kind of the weaver ant. I kept on clicking and once I got bored, I moved on looking for other subjects.

A little while later when I came back to the same spot, to my surprise the ant was still there and then something happened that took me almost a minute to register in my brain and react. The ant that was standing on the wall with foot down was suddenly walking in thin air. To my surprise the ant started weaving a web. It was trying to form a shield around itself like the ones Jumping spiders weave.

I pulled out my phone and did a quick google search for ants that weave webs. I was still under the impression that this is some sort of ant that can weave webs. After 10-15 mins of search I landed on a page that described Jumping spiders that mimic ants ‘Myrmaplata plataleoides’. The common name for these spiders are ‘Kerengga ant-like jumper’. These jumping spiders are found mostly in India and Sri-Lanka. These are quite harmless tiny spiders who have to mimic the weaver ants to ward of any predator. The mimicry does not stop just with the looks, these guys move around just like an ant and they use their two front legs to wave like the antennae of ants. The specific spider that I had seen was a female. By the time I finished going through the wikipedia page and a few other articles,
she had settled in her cosy web.

Myrmaplata plataleoides
Female Kerengga Ant like Jumper

I kept checking on the spider for the next couple of days until one fine day I saw the male spider. It had hijacked the female’s web and it appears to have killed the female in the process. A few days later I saw another male come by, anticipating a standoff display from the first guy, I lingered around. And the next day both of them were gone.

Myrmaplata plataleoides
Male Kerengga ant like jumper

The universe under our feet is indeed a fantasy world. Nature does work in mysterious ways and such evolutionary survival techniques are truly marvellous. The excitement of having observed a marvel of nature at such close quarters has left me enchanted.


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