What is it about?

Ants are dangerous and few predators are able to attack and consume them successfully. The Australian ant-slayer spider (Euryopis umbilicata) lives on tree trunks. Despite being only half the size of local ants, it specialises in hunting them and manages to avoid their multiple defences. This unusual spider has perfected a highly acrobatic and stereotypic attack choreography that results in a success rate of almost 100% Using infrared high-speed videography, we have been able to analyse in detail the complex attack sequence that only lasts a few hundred milliseconds and hardly ever fails to secure a substantial meal. The strategy is so successful that the ant slayer spider almost exclusively feeds on a single ant species, which is rare in predators, let alone in spiders.

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Why is it important?

The discovery of this complex yet successful hunting sequence adds significantly to our understanding of how spiders overcome dangerous prey, such as ants. Furthermore, it adds to our records of predatory success rates under adverse circumstances.

Perspectives

Our study started with an unexpected sighting that led to the discovery of an unusually high capture success. We aim to further understand which adaptations allowed these spiders to target the ants they prey upon. The high local abundance of ants potentially benefits ant predators so we wonder how these spiders locate and select their preferred prey. An important comparison would be with capture strategies of other spider species that independently evolved prey specialisation on large ants.

Alfonso Aceves
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft zur Forderung der Wissenschaften

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This page is a summary of: Fast acrobatic maneuvers enable arboreal spiders to hunt dangerous prey, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, September 2022, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2205942119.
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