by Piter Kehoma Boll
Spider are famous for being horrible creatures, atrocious predators with terrible venom and creepy webs. But that’s not quite true once you start to know them well, but, anyway, they used to be considered a group of animals composed solely by predators.
That’s not true anymore. In 2008, it has been found that a small jumping spider is predominantly vegetarian! Its name is Bagheera kiplingi, or the Kipling’s Acacia Spider, and it is our newest Friday Fellow.
The Kipling’s Acacia Spider is found in Central America, in Mexico, Costa Rica and Guatemala. It’s a jumping spider (family Salticidae), the most diverse family of spiders.
Living on acacia trees, the Kipling’s Acacia Spider feeds mainly on Beltian bodies, small structures at the tip of the Acacia’s leaflets that are rich in proteins, sugars and fats. The Beltian bodies are a food source for ant species of the genus Pseudomyrmex that live in a mutualistic relationship with the acacias, protecting the trees from herbivores.
Our spider most likely became an oportunist by exploring a resource that was not designed for it. And more than that, sometimes the spider can attack and eat the ants, especially their larvae, so becoming a kind of annoying disturbance to the mutualistic relationship between ant and tree.
However, despite the fact that it also feeds on ant larvae, Bagheera kiplingi has the Beltian bodies as its main food source. Ironically, the name Bagheera comes from Rudyard Kipling’s character Bagheera, which is a black panther. The specific epithet, kiplingi, honors Rudyard Kipling himself.
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Meehan, C. J.; Olson, E. J,; Reudink, M. W.; Kyser, T. K.; Curry, R. L. 2009. Herbivory in a spider through exploitation of an ant-plant mutualism. Currenty Biology, 19(19):R892-R893. DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2009.08.049
Wikipedia. Bagheera kiplingi. Available at: <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bagheera_kiplingi>. Access on February 02, 2016.