Bagheera Kiplingi - The Vegetarian Spider
Plant Eating Spiders?
When you think of a spider, it's generally not pleasant. Mutilated carcasses of insects, half sucked dry by the mandibles of some ravenous monster. Long silken strands ready to ensnare any unfortunate soul who doth not watch themselves with wide eyes...
It turns out there may be a god, for the insects at least. As a spider has recently been discovered with a bit of mercy in it's heart. As a strict Buddhist avoids meat so does this vegetarian spider, the Bagheera Kiplingi. Haunting the acacia trees and plants this spider leads a life not many would suspect, given everyone's common knowledge of spider facts.
The Bagheera differs from other spiders in that it has a very unique diet. It eats plants. The acacia plant to be exact. (Also known as thorntrees or wattles) The acacia plant makes an ideal food supply in the way it interacts with it's enviroment. Where most plants have chemical defenses to protect them from predators the acacia relies on several species of Pseudomyrmex ants to protect them. These ants perform beneficial functions by killing other nearby plants and any predators that come to feed on the Acacia. In return, the plant provides them with shelter in the form of domatia. Tiny chambers formed by the plant that house arthropods.
The Bagheera lives on the older leaves of the plants where food is much scarcer and the ants don't patrol as often. The Bagheera also may live together in groups unlike other spiders.
The ants and Bagheera spider feed on sap from the plant and Beltian pods. (Named after Thomas Belt) As you can imagine, this puts the Bagheera in a dangerous spot when it wants to feed. If the ants get a hold of him it is lights out. Fortunately the Bagheera spiders are crafty. Because they are jumping spiders they don't build webs, instead they possess a body made for scurrying coupled with excellent eyesight. They'll watch the every ants' movement for a while and when an there is an opening and no more of those pesky ants about they attack. Rushing to the tip of the plant as fast as they can they will nip off a Beltian pod and retreat to eat in peace.
Bagheera kiplingi is a colorful species, with the two sexes looking very different. The male has amber legs, a dark cephalothorax that is greenish in the upper region near the front, and a slender reddish abdomen with green transversal lines. The female's amber front legs are sturdier than the other, slender legs, which are light yellow. It has a reddish brown cephalothorax with the top region near the front black. The female's rather large abdomen is light brown with dark brown and greenish markings. (Wiki - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bagheera_kiplingi)
If you have any cool videos of these little guys please share!