December 10, 2012

New Species of 'Decoy' Spider Likely Discovered At Tambopata Research Center

58 comments
Image by Phil Torres
From afar, it appears to be a medium sized spider about an inch across, possibly dead and dried out, hanging in the center of a spider web along the side of the trail. Nothing too out of the ordinary for the Amazon. As you approach, the spider starts to wobble quickly forward and back, letting you know this spider is, in fact, alive. 
Step in even closer and things start to get weird- that spider form you were looking at is actually made up of tiny bits of leaf, debris, and dead insects. The confusion sets in. How can something be constructed to look like a spider, how is it moving, and what kind of creature made this!?
It turns out the master designer behind this somewhat creepy form is in fact a tiny spider, only about 5mm in body length, that is hiding behind or above that false, bigger spider made up of debris. After discussing with several spider experts, we've determined it is quite probable that this spider is a never-before-seen species in the genus Cyclosa. This genus is known for having spiders that put debris in their webs to either attract prey or, as in this case, confuse anything trying to eat them.
The Tambopata Research Center
You could call it a spider decoy, in a sense. The spiders arrange debris along specialized silk strands called stabilimenta in a symmetrical form that makes it look almost exactly like a larger spider hanging in the web. Studies have found that some Cyclosa species have a higher survival rate against potential predators like paper wasps because the wasps end up attacking the debris in the web rather than the spider itself. As seen here, Cyclosa can make debris look a bit like a spider, but not nearly as detailed as the spiders found at the Tambopata Research Center which have a complex form that actually looks like a bigger version of themselves, complete with legs and all.
After asking other experts, I cannot seem find another example of an animal creating a bigger, decoy version of itself to escape predation, making this species not only interesting to taxonomists naming new species but to those who study animal behavior, as well. 
After 3 days of searching we found about 25 of the spiders found in one floodplain area surrounding the Tambopata Research Center. Extensive searches in other areas did not turn up any of the spiders, showing that they have a rather restricted range, at least locally.
The actual spider (left) and constructed decoys (right)
Images by: Phil Torres and Jeff Cremer 
What’s the next step after discovering a new species? It takes a lot of time and effort to go from finding it in the field to actually describing it. Specimens will have to be collected to compare to known species, dissections done on identifying features like the genitalia, and descriptions will have to be written to show why this species is different from others,  a type specimen will have to be selected, and the eventual publication of all of that information in a journal. Only then can it be considered a named new species to science.
For now, we are looking for spider-specialists to collaborate with to describe this species, and enjoying pointing it out to tourists who come to Tambopata to check out all of our strange, interesting wildlife.
Phil Torres is available to live-stream video from one of the spiders in January and March. Please contact philtorrestv@gmail.com for those interested.

Follow Phil Torres on twitter.


The 'decoys' were built with a variety of forms and numbers of legs. Image by Jeff Cremer.

A close-up of one of the spiders. Image by Steve Gettle.

















58 comments:

  1. "Art as a means of survival", truly amazing research!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I must take exception with the premise of these decoy spiders as art. That's preposterous...

    ReplyDelete
  3. Replies
    1. I like this one.... I don't care what they call it, I am calling it Charlotte, I think they should look around for a pic hanging out there.

      Delete
  4. Maybe I missed the sarcasm, but actually, offhand I can't think of a better example of art in an animal other than humans! (Simply because it is functional or possibly "instinctual" does not invalidate its status as art.) Giacometti indeed! Just... life-saving, that's all.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Pretty damn clever spiders right there.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Does this imply self-awareness in this spider? In order to create a replica/decoy it has to have some type of knowledge of itself as a spider, even if it is copying something else it sees, like a larger spider's web, it would have to make the connection between a spider in the abstract and the spider "I am."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Here we go spider activists.. It's nothing more than the natural instinct God created in this spider.

      Delete
  7. Gary Bastoky -- you are misunderstanding the slow process of natural selection that produced this behaviour.

    I'm sure earlier spiders of this species began, quite accidentally, leaving rudimentary "decoys" (though not intended as such) and were at least moderately more successful at passing on their genes than non-decoy producing spiders. Over large spans of time, genes that encoded even more specific "decoy"-building behaviours were selected for, as the decoys would be more effective the more they ressembled their author.

    There is no reason to infer self-awareness on behalf of the spider.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Not necessarily true. Not all behaviors are passed on genetically. If you teach a dog to sit, it doesn't mean that its children are going to naturally know how to "sit". We don't know if this sort of behavior is indeed genetically passed on or if this trait is a learned behavior that isn't passed through genetics. For example, we see communities of chimpanzees that use rocks to smash nuts to eat, but that is not a genetic trait. It is a trait that the parent chimps teach the baby chimps. Does the spider have a sense of self? probably not, but this doesn't have to be natural selection that causes this behavior. Moreover, the fact that this behavior is limited to the small area suggest that this trait is not really genetic but more of a learned trait.

      Delete
    2. I'm sure since this is a new species, the other spiders of this species share the same genetic instinct. Seriously, you have no basis to say this is learned.

      Delete
  8. Can anybody refer me somewhere that I can post a picture of a possible spider bite? I would like to know if anybody can tell me species of spider by looking at bite

    ReplyDelete
  9. Though I understand the slow natural selection involved in this behavior, I think there is some illustration of self-awareness on the spider's part. For the spider to create legs in addition to provoking the decoy with its own movement elevates this discussion beyond biological instinct, I think.

    I am referring to Julian Jayne's 'The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind.' His work details the long, arduous process ancient humans underwent to achieve similar stages of image representation. Consciousness, as I understood it, is more a stage in a spectrum of understanding rather than a 'you have it or you don't' mentality. I believe this finding is evidence of an evolution very similar to that of the human.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Natural selection is not the answer to everything. You cannot naturally select to be immune to deadly toxin yet some animals or fish are. They were born that way. evolution has nothing on intelligent design.

      Delete
  10. Hi Bristol, very interesting points and thanks for commenting. What probably makes this a case of not being self-aware is that this spider appears to be making a decoy, mimic version of another larger spider species in the area rather than itself. The visual system of these spiders are very likely not good enough for them to take a step back and look at the constructed decoy (which would indicate conscious image representation), rather they are following complicated behavioural rules and patterns to place the debris, just as they follow complicated rules and patterns to make a web in the first place.

    This to me serves as a great example of how detailed behavioral systems can evolve in the face of strong natural selection from predators.

    ReplyDelete
  11. The neural cluster that is this spiders brain is probably extremely small, and thus roughly equivalent to an embedded circuit in terms of processing power. Enough to display quasi-intelligent traits, but not enough to have complex image processing.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Not being a scientist, I still have to wonder how much we really know and how much we just think we know about the natural world. I remember reading, some time ago, that linking brain size to intelligence is now akin to believing in phrenology. Can you really make the analogy of an embedded circuit's processing power to a spider's brain? Which embedded circuit? Image processing? Is a living being really just a computer?

    Again, I'm "only" an artist/designer, so I tend to trust my intuition, and although I'm not saying that this spider has the capabilities to propose a unified field theory, I have to question how much we really don't know and how many of our assumptions are regularly influenced by human prejudice. How open are we to questioning our assumptions? Because a dog doesn't speak, does it mean it can't communicate complex emotions? We are finding that elephants communicate via low frequency sound -- because we can't hear it, we assumed it didn't exist.

    All I'm saying is to respect the spider as you would want to be respected and by giving respect to others, you learn more than you ever imagined.

    ReplyDelete
  13. We know the proccessing capabilities based on neural tissue size. The physics of this universe and the makeup of life on this planet interact in a way that does not allow for the processing power an animal would need for sentience. An embedded circuit nowadays can be rather complex. But the brain power of the spider is something akin to a hopped up remote control.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. agreed. we can know the intelligence by how fast they can fire neurons in the brain and what not. we know spiders are not self aware and this is just a clear example of intelligent design.

      Delete
    2. a; A perfect example of how God does wondrous things and that when we accept this premise we can move light-years in our thinking.

      Delete
    3. God has nothing to do with it, what you have to accept is this spider has learned a behavior that keeps away potential predators while still allowing him the ability to feed, we could be seeing the initial steps towards a behavioral pattern that could be thus learned and imprinted onto its next generation.

      Delete
  14. Kori, that makes sense to me. Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  15. The web decoration is called a "stabilimentum", http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_decoration, many theories exist as to the function, the vibration behavior is also mentioned in the above reference. Some researchers think the stabilimentum performs as a warning to birds that may fly through the web otherwise.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Arachnos Tambopata Cyclosa... That could be it's "Latin name" for now probably. It's a spider, it was found in the Tambopata Nature Preserve, and it seems to be related to the Cyclosa genus. Makes sense to me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's a really good name for it aflacman13. yes Latin names are fairly important, but the name has to also resemble its English name.

      Delete
  17. De kooi Cyclosa sounds good! Or illusory (Illusorius Cyclosa). Nice find!

    ReplyDelete
  18. Stuart Wilson.... are you seriously using Wikipedia as a reference?

    ReplyDelete
  19. "Does this imply self-awareness in this spider?"

    Not at all.

    "In order to create a replica/decoy it has to have some type of knowledge of itself as a spider"

    No, it only has to "know how" to construct that web, it does not have to "know that" it is a spider, or anything else.

    "even if it is copying something else it sees"

    It isn't copying anything. Spiders don't learn.

    "it would have to make the connection between a spider in the abstract and the spider 'I am.'"

    Do you have any idea how many (few) neurons there are in a spider's "brain"? Not enough to makes connections or have abstractions or anything of the sort.

    "Stuart Wilson.... are you seriously using Wikipedia as a reference?"

    One encounters many boneheaded, wrong-headed ideas that get repeated on the web, but there are few as boneheaded and wrong-headed as the notion that one should not use Wikipedia as a reference.

    ReplyDelete
  20. "Not being a scientist, I still have to wonder how much we really know and how much we just think we know about the natural world. "

    Gary, you're presuming to know a lot more about the state of scientific knowledge than is warranted.

    "I remember reading, some time ago, that linking brain size to intelligence is now akin to believing in phrenology."

    Strawman and logical error. A brain can be arbitrarily large and complex and yet have very low unintelligence (e.g., it could be dead or in a coma), but a brain cannot be arbitrarily small and simple and yet have very high intelligence.

    "Can you really make the analogy of an embedded circuit's processing power to a spider's brain?"

    Yes.

    "Which embedded circuit?"

    A cognitive circuit.

    "Is a living being really just a computer?"

    Yes, in the sense that its behavior function is equivalent to some finite state machine.

    "Again, I'm "only" an artist/designer, so I tend to trust my intuition"

    Intuitions are powerful heuristics, but it's important to understand their limitations. Science has demonstrated that intuition is unreliable, regardless of what you are.

    "I have to question how much we really don't know and how many of our assumptions are regularly influenced by human prejudice."

    What you should be questioning are your own prejudices (or intuitions, if you prefer to call them that).

    "How open are we to questioning our assumptions?"

    How open are you to questioning your assumptions about other people's assumptions?

    "Because a dog doesn't speak, does it mean it can't communicate complex emotions?"

    No, of course not,not, who ever claimed that? Do your intuitions lead you to attack such strawmen?

    "We are finding that elephants communicate via low frequency sound -- because we can't hear it, we assumed it didn't exist."

    Who assumed that? I never did. I've never seen or heard anyone named George Leroy MacGillicuddy, but I don't therefore assume that there is no such person. Not knowing that something is true is nothing like assuming that it is false. But it may be reasonable to expect something to be false when there is *evidence and logic* that leads in that direction; that's not an assumption, it's an *inference* ... which is what science is all about: inference to the best explanation of all evidence obtained to date. New evidence can produce new inferences.

    ReplyDelete
  21. "Though I understand the slow natural selection involved in this behavior"

    Your comment indicates otherwise.

    "I think there is some illustration of self-awareness on the spider's part."

    There isn't.

    "For the spider to create legs in addition to provoking the decoy with its own movement elevates this discussion beyond biological instinct, I think. "

    That is completely and utterly wrong. The spider does not "create legs", it places debris in locations on the web that have a rough geometric resemblance to the positions of spider legs. A program to do that is fairly simple and requires no knowledge whatsoever of "legs" ... or of anything else. It is only "know how", not "know that". The spider possesses such a program because spiders with such a program is more likely to avoid be killed by predators and thus more likely to pass the genes that produce such a program. Visual image formation has nothing to do with it. (And you should be aware that Jaynes's book is largely speculative, and probably largely wrong.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dude, you're such a douche. What I don't agree with on your take of this article, is the assumption that your assumption that other species you are incapable of communication with, are therefore incapable of sentience.

      Your attempt to logically prove this by stating the connection between brain size and function to consciousness necessarily need a base size and functional capability to produce consciousness. You neglect to include how science has no perfect explanation that covers consciousness, and therefore you are using an outdated belief system that, without the knowledge to do so, attempts to explain how other species experience the world. Without a unifying theory of consciousness, we are totally incapable of assuming one thing has consciousness, while another does not.

      Until it is otherwise proven the mind is not separate from the body, there is no way in hell your quasi-empirical, theoretical opinions weigh more than mine. I swear, science is way too dogmatic.

      Delete
  22. "What probably makes this a case of not being self-aware is that this spider appears to be making a decoy, mimic version of another larger spider species in the area rather than itself. "

    No, it just produces something that sometimes vaguely resembles a large spider, making it more likely that predators will go for some of the debris rather than the actual spider. It's not aware of other spiders any more than it is aware of itself (which is not at all).

    ReplyDelete
  23. I will be forwarding this to my son so that he could learn this..
    responsive themes

    ReplyDelete
  24. Congratulations for this wonderful reading article. I found it very informative and interesting too, I think you are a brilliant writer. I have bookmarked your blog and will return in the future. I want to encourage you to continue that marvelous work, have a great daytime!
    Graphic design australia


    Please update it more often as I find it very professional and informative for your visitors.
    website cms system

    ReplyDelete
  25. Wow, just looking at these pictures send shivers down my spine. However it looks like, I really can't stand spiders!

    -Bethany Morrison

    ReplyDelete
  26. Hey, How are going on?

    If u has a while please check out, I will see all-time your website on blog.perunature.com.It is a wonderful website for of all us.This website help us many way.I will save this weblog because it has some essential info.So I want to know these issues as I am going to demonstrate you how to make a web page in WordPress in less than 10 min. I will show How to create a website. Wordpress platforms is a free foundation (free) web page designer which you can handle online. You will learn how Easy it is to set up WordPress, along with simple guidelines on "How to make some primary options in WordPress." But first, you will need to make web host with HostGator. In it clip I have defined this detailed.

    Thank you for your Excellent Article.

    ReplyDelete
  27. That is so amazing! at the beginning I thought it was a huge Peruvian spider, that tiny spider is definitely a master in camouflage.

    ReplyDelete
  28. "Arachniquin Spider", "Masquerade Spider", "Marionette Spider", "Magnifying Mirror Spider", "Ghost-Arachnitech"...the possibilities are endless!

    ReplyDelete
  29. Awesome discovery. Of the four names put forward by the discoverers, I like "Effigy Spider" best, but I think "Puppetmaster Spider" would be even better.

    ReplyDelete
  30. i think it should be called the Trojan spider

    ReplyDelete
  31. If you look closely at the last picture you might notice some round objects inside the fake spider. I assume that those are EGGS and that the spider is trying to defend them by this strange "camouflage" method. Just compare the texture of those round objects to the texture of other spider eggs. Looks very similar to me.

    ReplyDelete
  32. Within considering a great archery fashion method of write a research paper for me , this particular portion is a lot like producing a great arrow regarding ribbon looking.

    ReplyDelete
  33. "Effigy Spider" seems most appropriate.

    ReplyDelete
  34. I think it's rather intriguing how we, as 'thinking' animals, are always surprised when a creature exhibits the impression of 'thought' or foresight. After all who's to say we are not just as mechanical as this little spider for which we can't confirm nor deny it's 'self awareness'. We marvel at the idea that a complex creature, like a dolphin might actually possess language skills like it's the mother of all discoveries, but aren't we also mammals, who possess language skills? I find it rather, fascinating. Thanks for sharing the amazing photos and I love the work you guys do.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Heres the difference you should marvel at. YOU ARE A HUMAN, those mammals are not. WE are Human and you can't beat that. You can't compare, you can't relate. We are fearfully and wonderfully made by our creator. WE HAVE A SOUL, the animal does not. If you do not agree, I feel sorry that you've bought the propaganda and been so poorly brainwashed because I'm sure your heart still knows the truth.

      Delete
    2. I'm so glad you think your special and simultaneously put down everyone else on every scale except those that believe as you. If humans are "fearfully and wonderfully made by our creator" (I assume you mean the creator of the planet as well) then OTHER mammals and creatures were "fearfully and wonderfully made by our creator" as well. There is no scientific evidence that animals do not have souls, nor evidence that humans do. It is a belief, and one you are more than welcome to believe in, but it is not fact and should not be used to put down all other creation.

      Delete
  35. easily considering that the several scholarship grants need task seekers to post at the least individual article, It has very essential which the on the custom essay writing uk a person produce echoes towards the grant idol judges. together with Should you fulfill his or her were made standards, but you have to ensure You can find no punctuational or grammatical problems.

    ReplyDelete
  36. Doing the job international feature a danger should you have decided on in order to selling point of employment opportunities overseas that could otherwise not necessarily be accessible inside their particular property international locations. Disease, incident resulting in injuries or perhaps incapacity, and in many cases demise are generally several scenarios that contain free vacation rental listing in addition to always happen to international individuals.

    ReplyDelete
  37. How about "Blair Witch Spider"?

    That debris figure reminds me of the stick men in the movie. Throw in the way the "Smarter Every Day" guys stumbled up on it at night with video recorders, and this name's a natural.

    ReplyDelete
  38. Thats FREAKING AMAZING!!!! THANK YOU YOUTUBE AGAIN!!!!

    ReplyDelete
  39. At most of the businesses, personnel tend to be more than happy to have his or her employers record all of the a long time many people do the job. That they appreciate that there are the automatic wall clock method in position that helps to ensure that his or her a long time are being tracked.watches

    ReplyDelete

 
© 2013 Peru Nature Blog
powered by Blogger