Camouflage is nothing new in the animal kingdom... thousands of species use it for both hiding from predators and for sneaking up on prey. In these ten cases, everyone wants to be the cool kids on the block... ants. Ants, it turns out, are the Fonzies of the insect and arachnid world. Nature has totally noticed that no one f**ks with ants. They are brutally tough, they are full of acid, they fight in organized battalions, they have powerful slicing mandibles and they taste bad. Predators stay away. And so, entire groups of spiders and other insects have tapped their multiple legs thoughtfully against their mandibles and mused: "Those guys kind of rule."
Over two hundred species of jumping spiders alone have decided that ant life is the life for them. In many of these cases they do so for the protection it provides. Look like an ant, walk like an ant... no one eats you. In some other instances, it's awesome cover to sling an antskin over your back and walk out into the colony -- shaking hands and eating whoever you want.Ant-mimics usually use their first or second pair of legs to fake ant antennae, such reducing the number of functional legs to six. Look carefully, count legs. These guys are so good, if I wasn't telling you these were NOT ants, you would never know!
Myrmarachne AssimilisPhoto: Metaweb / GNU Free Documentation License
SpiderAmazingly, the baby spiders, when they are too minute to convincingly copy the much bigger ant species that the adult copies, use other smaller ant species as a model.
Myrmarachne assimilis is the only Myrmarachne species that mimics the aggressive weaver ant, with which it lives in close contact. Not only do they look alike and walk alike, it is also thought that Assimilis has developed a way to copy the chemical signatures the weavers use to recognize each other.
Myrmarachne melanotarsaPhoto: Metaweb / CC-BYSpider
Myrmarachne melanotarsa, also called the dark-footed ant-spider, is an African jumping spider found around in Africa. This Myrmarachne mimics ants, like many other Myrmarachne, of the Crematogaster genus. However, these guys are unusual in that they exhibit social behavior, forming large communities. Hundreds of these spiders, of both sexes and of all ages, can be found in such communal nests, but most nests have between 10 and 50 spiders. It is theorized (and has been witnessed) that when Melanotarsa travels in larger groups (like ants do) they are much less likely to be attacked by specialist spiders - who actually prey on ant-mimics.
For many salticids (jumping spiders), ants can be very dangerous... but salticid eyesight seems to be up to the challenge. Some experiments have demonstrated that many species of ordinary salticids (species that are neither ant-like nor ant-eating) readily identify ants by sight and then avoid their proximity.
Ant-like and ant-eating salticids NEED to get close to ants, however, and they apparently have abilities to survive these close encounters better than other salticids. It has been thought that accurate mimics of a particular model species survive better ... but a brand new study might suggest that imperfect mimics possibly do better than their perfect couterparts.Synemosyna formica is thought to mimic Pseudomyrmex gracilis, a nasty little a-hole that can both jump and sting.
SpiderThe house I grew up in had regular infestations of these ridiculously mean little biting assholes, and I am pretty sure I would have preferred living with the spider version.
This ant-like salticid is found from the northeastern United States southwest to Mexico. These could not look more like the super-aggressive harvester ants of the region. Specifically, note the markings on the spider's upper thorax that looks like big, bambi ant eyes.