I am always fascinated by how insect mimic other things to either hide from the predators or to use it as a stealth weapon.
Few years back, I was in Dandeli, Karnataka, India with my family and saw some ants going about their usual business of finding food and taking it “home”. The ants were busy and ignored my presence except for a few who crawled up my hands and feet to check me out. Thankfully I was able to get rid of them without any major pain.
Once I had a decent shot of the ants carrying their food, I thought of going closer and take shot of individual red ants. I spotted an isolated ant and took a few shots. The real fun part came when I spotted another similar looking ant and attempted a head-on front view shot.
I can still remember the goosebumps I had looking into the viewfinder. What I had in front of me looked almost like the other ants… well almost, with a key difference, it was not an ant, but a spider. An Ant Mimic Spider. The spider looked so similar that it not only fooled me but the entire gang of ants which was casually moving around the spider as if its one of its own. Check the front legs of the spider raised to mimic the antenna.. how cool is that?
Now there are a few theories around such mimicry. One, the spiders evolved to take advantage of the protection of the Ants (which most other predictors avoid). Another theory is that the spiders hide among the ants and then eat one of them on a regular basis. I am not sure what exact relationship the ants and this spider shared, but it gave me some great memories and a new eye to look at spiders, and ants too.
Later I found many other Ant Mimic spiders at various places, in various colors and sizes to suite the ant it was mimicking, but this is one experience that’s etched into my brain permanently.
I did some search later and found some good explanation on Wiki: Myrmarachne is a genus of jumping spiders which imitate an ant by waving their front legs in the air to simulate antennae. Some species also look strikingly like ants. Spiders in this genus are commonly called antmimicking spiders, although there are many other spiders that mimic ants.