Thursday, January 3, 2013

Punching above their weight

Crab spiders (Thomisidae) are ambush hunters, spending most of their time waiting motionless for invertebrate prey to come within reach. When they do strike, they simply grasp their prey with their front two pairs of legs and pull it toward their fangs. Their venom appears to be very fast acting as they have the ability to subdue animals many times their own weight and do so quickly with a minimum of fuss. While filming crab spiders in Costa Rica in 2011 we shot multiple sequences with of them capturing beetles. Each time the beetle were captured they would shudder and die within seconds. Given that these spiders are often much smaller than their prey, and do not use silk to assist them, having a venom which if fast acting is a necessity.

This tiny crab spider (possibly a juvenile Thomisus spectabilis) was photographed last night in our yard. It has captured a much larger katydid (Caedicia sp.)

A cryptic crab spider (Stephanopis sp.) at Cape Tribulation with large prey – this time a Phricta spinosa nymph.

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