Washing some fresh kale brought in from the garden last night, J came face to face with a spider. As one does. Being a naturalist of stout mien she put it in one of the insect pots that are strategically placed around our house for just such encounters and asked me if this was something new for the life list.
It was and I believe this to be a Common Pirate Spider (Mimetus puritanus)
This small but interesting specimen is a spider of the family Mimetidae. There are about 200 species around the planet, mostly in South American forests. They are particularly interesting in that they eat other spiders. Wikepdia has the following entry, which has a great PhD project topic for an enterprising student one day:
(Some species of the family) hunt by picking at the strands on their prey’s web to simulate the movements of either a trapped insect or a potential mate. When their prey comes to investigate, they are instead captured and eaten. Some mimetids have been observed to feed on insects as well. The spider-feeding habit presents problems in mating, and little is known about how the males court females to avoid being eaten. However, some male mimetids in the genus Gelanor, found in South America, have enormously long appendages which they use to inseminate females.
What is more, species of the genus Evo hang under leaves and catch passing spiders by extension of their long legs. Other species invade spider webs, and some lure males of other species to their deaths by imitating the courtship display of the spider concerned. The setae on the legs (see photo) enable it to hang on to its prey.
Altogether these cannibalistic creatures are rather nasty, but jolly interesting. Now, how did it come to be hanging out in our vegetable garden?