Threaten Sign    


Jumping Spider Mimicking 

Jumping Spider - the model of Jumping Spider Mimicry
We noticed one interesting behaviour of some planthoppers. They mimic the Jumping Spider.

Plant-hopper's face with Jumping Spider eyes pattern

The Spider-face Wattle Hoppers like to rest on stems of about 10mm diameter. When we came close, they walked sideway and moved to the opposite side of the stem. This escape strategy was quite effective on stems of 10mm diameter. The group of planthoppers disappeared from our eyes in tenths of a seconds.
When we came more closer, they walk forwards or backwards along the stem. They seldom change their facing direction unless walking backwards and blocked by something. They jumped and flied away when we touch them by figures.    
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With more observations, we found that sometimes we confused the planthopper with the jumping spider Zenodorus orbiculatus which can also be found on the same host tree stems. Looked closer to the planthopper, we noticed the eyes pattern on the planthopper's frons, which made us think it was a jumping spider. 
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The planthopper may not look like a jumping spider in the human point of view. Imagine if you were an ant or a jumping spider walking along the 10mm thick stem. When you met the planthopper, most likely you will see the planthopper face to face. At this angle, the planthopper looks like a jumping spider. 
This also explained why the planthopper only move sideway, forwards and backwards but seldom turn around. For if it turns, the mimicking will fail. 
The jumping-spider-mimicking may help the planthopper to avoid some predators, such as ants and even the jumping spiders. We did see the Zenodorus orbiculatus prey on ant. 
Together with our observations on another planthopper Platybrachys vidua, its backwards movement and eyes-pattern on wing tips to mimic larger animal. We speculate the planthoppers adapted the backward movement first, and then eyes-pattern on frons and on wing tips individually in evolution later.
We have more discussions in our Mimicry and Camouflage pages.

Hopper nymph's face with Jumping Spider eyes pattern

In  early summer Oct 2007, we found another planthopper that also has the jumping spider face pattern. 
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When we first saw this planthopper face to face, we did think it was a jumping spider. After the planthopper moved, we looked at it at the side view, it nothing looked like a jumping spider.
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This is a planthopper nymph in family Cicadellidae. We did not find the adult yet and did not know it ID.  
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Unlike the planthopper we mentioned above, never turn sideway to avoid give away its identity, this planthopper nymph did turn around to any direction when disturbed. But we notice that when this nymph rested, it rested at the V-shaped gap formed by the stem and a leaf. So its back was well protected and unseen.
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We also notice that they were attended by at least two different small ants species. This indicated that those small ants are not the targets of the mimicry. Small ants' vision may not good enough to see their face anyway. Possibly the good vision Jumping Spiders, the larger ants and the vertebrate predators are the targets.   

Ladybird's thorax with Jumping Spider eyes pattern

Since some ladybird species feed on aphids and most aphids attract ants for protection. Ladybirds always confront with the ants. 
We noticed that the "Jumping Spider eyes pattern" on ladybird thorax is quite common. Those mimic patterns may help to scare away the ants. 
Most of those mimic patterns on ladybird thorax are not as good mimic as those hoppers discussed above. At least we had never mistaken a ladybird as a jumping spider.
We also notice two points;
1. Most of those ladybird species with the eye patterns are aphid-feeding species, i.e., higher chance confront with ants.
2. When those ladybirds first emerge from pupa, before their skin dry and harden, they are pale in colour. It is the patterns on throax appear first. This may help them to avoid the ants in that weak situation. 
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Last updated: December 10, 2007.