play­ing tricks

Bo­las spi­ders de­ceive and ex­ploit to get their meals de­liv­ered straight to them

World of Animals - - Super Sniffers -

Bo­las spi­ders are sneaky crea­tures, us­ing scent to lure prey to them. Each species emits a blend of chem­i­cals that ac­cu­rately mim­ics the sex pheromones of a sin­gle species or small group of moths. Think­ing they smell a po­ten­tial mate, the un­sus­pect­ing in­sects fly to­wards the source and are promptly am­bushed. Ju­ve­nile and adult male spi­ders adopt the sim­ple tac­tic of grab­bing moths with their front legs, while fe­males catch their meals with a bo­las – a sticky blob of silk swung on a line.

One species, Mastophora hutchin­soni, takes things to an­other level. Moth species fly at dif­fer­ent times, so through­out an evening’s hunt this so­phis­ti­cated trick­ster changes the scent it pro­duces. When one moth is no longer in the air, the spider switches the blend of chem­i­cals and be­gins to mimic a species that emerges later in the night to max­imise the num­ber of cour­ses in that day’s feast.

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