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Now you see ’em…

November 23, 2017

The basic survival skills in nature are the ability to elude the predators hunting you and to remain unseen by the prey that you are stalking. There are many ways animals can do this but one of them is by camouflage, using shapes and colour to blend into the background. One has to wonder then what is happening when you see an extremely white spider sitting on a brown stalk of vegetation trying to catch a meal. Has evolution gone astray?

White Crab Spider (Thomisus spectabilis)

Observed at Murchisons Gap Lookout, the spider in question was a White Crab Spider (Thomisus spectabilis), pictured above. The White Crab Spider is an ambush predator. It waits within the structure of a flower and then grabs any pollinator that stops by. This may seem at odds with its striking white colour. This spider however belongs to a family of spiders, Thomisidae, which can change colour from white to yellow depending on the colour of the flower on which it is hiding. It does this by secreting a yellow pigment into the outer skin layers. The colour change can take up to three weeks to complete and about a week to reverse.

So on what was this spider perched? A dead stalk of St John’s Wort, a striking but unwanted yellow-flowered plant in the district. Like my dress sense, this spider’s colour is out of season. My next challenge will be to try and find one of these critters in full yellow dress.

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