Monday, 3 December 2012

Weird and Wonderful: Ladybird Mimic Spider, another real life Pokémon!

Tom Stubbs 

Meet Paraplectana duodecimmaculata, nicknamed the Ladybird Mimic Spider (or Ladybug Mimic Spider to our American friends). Despite belonging to the same group as tarantulas and black widows, this cute little critter looks just like a ladybird! In addition to resembling a ladybird this spider is also reminiscent of the Pokémon Parasect, from back in the day! Why, you ask, would a spider, that most people find scary, chose to look like a ladybird that is not associated with such fear. Well in the animal kingdom the bright colouration and spots of a ladybird represent a warning sign; they are what is termed aposematic. This visual warning system is designed to discourage predation by informing any potential trouble makers that the animal is not edible. In the case of the ladybird, they are filled to the brim with toxic and foul-tasting alkaloids. By mimicking the ladybird, the edible spider is using this colour system to avoid predators, this is known as Batesian mimicry. Intriguingly this spider is not alone in mimicking the ladybird, you also find other edible beetles using their colour patterns.

The ladybird mimicking beetle (right) has adopted the same tactic as the spider (left)