A spider that dines almost exclusively on plants has been described by scientists. It is the first-known predominantly vegetarian spider; all of the other known 40,000 spider species are thought to be mainly carnivorous.
Bagheera kiplingi, which is found in Central America and Mexico, bucks the meat-eating trend by feasting on acacia plants…
The jumping arachnid, which is 5-6mm long, has developed a taste for the tips of the acacia plants – known as Beltian bodies – which are packed full of protein…
The ants and acacia trees have co-evolved to form a mutually beneficial relationship: the aggressive ants protect the trees from predators, swarming to attack any invaders; and in return for acting as bodyguards, the ants get to gorge on the acacias’ Beltian bodies themselves…
One of the study’s authors, Professor Robert Curry, from Villanova University, Pennsylvania, told BBC News: “The spiders basically dodge the ants.
“The spiders live on the plants – but way out on the tips of the old leaves, where the ants don’t spend a lot of time, because there isn’t any food on those leaves.”
But when they get hungry, the spiders head to the newer leaves, and get ready to run the ant gauntlet.
Professor Curry said: “And they wait for an opening – they watch the ants move around, and they watch to see that there are not any ants in the local area that they are going after.
“And then they zip in and grab one of these Beltian bodies and then clip it off, hold it in their mouths and run away. And then they retreat to one of the undefended parts of the plant to eat it.”
Whoda thunk it?