A snake-mimicking spider

November 14, 2016 • 12:00 pm

by Greg Mayer

Matthew shared with me an interesting video of a spider from Singapore that looks like the head of a snake.

Mystery of the Pulsating Spider

The videographer, Nicky Bay, is most interested in the pulsation of a dark region below the ‘eyes’, but to me it’s the resemblance to a snake that is most striking– the ‘nostrils/loreal pits’ (note the number/arrangement is not perfect), and the ‘preocular and supralabial scales’. There are at least two species of pit vipers on Singapore. The mangrove pit viper is dark, and not at first glance an appealing candidate for a a model. Wagler’s pit viper, though, has potential.

Mimicry of snakes by arthropods is not common, but not unknown. Jerry posted here at WEIT earlier about a lepidopteran pupa mimicking a snake, and Matthew posted on a caterpillar mimicking a snake, as well as a frog said to mimic a bird dropping. I mention the latter because Bay considers that the spider may be a bird dropping mimic, which doesn’t seem to be the case to me. He gives it a vernacular name of “bird dropping spider”, but says, “Gave me the impression of a snake’s head though!” The taxonomic identity of the spider is not clear; there are additional photos on his website.

The horror, ctd.

November 12, 2014 • 2:15 pm

by Greg Mayer

We’ve had occasion previously to note some dastardly beings that eat lizards, and express dismay at their foul deeds. And now, thanks to Matthew, we have another opportunity to engage in a two minutes hate towards a transgressor.

Wasp spider (Argiope brunnichi) with common lizard (Lacerta vivipara) in Cheshire, UK, from Phil @Goldenorfephoto.
Wasp spider (Argiope bruennichi) with common lizard (Lacerta vivipara) in (probably) Cheshire, UK, from Phil @Goldenorfephoto.

That’s a wasp spider (Argiope bruennichi), a recent invader of Great Britain from the Continent. The picture was tweeted by Phil @goldenorfephoto. Phil is based in Cheshire, which is up where the NE corner of Wales touches England. So if he took the photo locally, then the spider is expanding its range rapidly (or, as Matthew put it to me when pointing this out, “pdq”), as can be seen from the map below, where it’s still quite a ways from Cheshire.

Distribution of Argiope bruennichi in the UK (from britishspiders.org.uk).
Distribution of Argiope bruennichi in the UK (from britishspiders.org.uk).

The tragic victim is a common lizard, Lacerta vivipara, one of the two three species of lizard native to Britain (the others being the much rarer sand lizard, Lacerta agilis, and the legless slow worm, Anguis fragilis; lizard count updated thanks to comment below by reader Dave). You can see some less traumatic photos of them here.

The picture reminded me very much of the large American orb weaving spider Nephila clavipes, which I have encountered in the West Indies and Central America, and which also eats lizards. The Nephila I’ve seen in the tropics are more yellow, rather than the orangey Florida ones pictured at the link above.¬† Nephila and Argiope are both orb weavers¬† (I didn’t realize they had big ones in England), and are sometimes placed in the same family.

h/t Matthew ~