With a body measuring just one inch long, the regal jumping spider might not seem like much of a threat.
But, researchers have discovered that these tiny creatures can take down frogs and lizards up to three times their own size, allowing them to devour the vertebrates that would potentially prey on them otherwise.
A new study documents several observations of this bizarre behaviour for the first time, and the experts now suspect it gives these small arachnids a survival advantage.
With a body measuring just one inch long, the regal jumping spider might not seem like much of a threat. But, researchers have discovered that these tiny creatures can take down frogs and lizards up to three times their own size
In a recent study, researchers from the the National University of Singapore sorted ortia labiate jumping spiders into two personality groups: docile and aggressive.
Each was given the choice between large pray and small prey, with the larger prey being the correct or 'accurate choice.'
Typically, decision-making involves a speed-accuracy trade off in which quick decisions result in less accuracy.
This is true for humans, and the scientists thought the same would be the case for the spiders as well.
The results showed that the aggressive spiders made quicker decisions, but surprisingly, they didn't sacrifice accuracy and chose the larger prey just like the docile spiders.
The regal jumping spider is found commonly throughout Florida, and is one of the biggest jumping spiders in the world, according to National Geographic.
In a new study published to the Journal of Arachnology, scientists conducted an internet survey on vertebrate predation by these creatures, following earlier anecdotes of such behaviour.
Using Google Search, GoogleScholar, Google Books, and Google Pictures as well as the Thomson Reuters and Scopus database, the researchers discovered six additional reports of the spiders feasting on small vertebrates.
This included frogs with a body length 1-1.5 times that of the spiders, and lizards with bodies 1.5-2.5 times their size.
‘Many frog and lizard species are known to include spiders in their diets,’ study co-author Martin Nyffeler, a conservation biologist at Switzerland’s University of Basel, told National Geographic.
‘I’m very impressed that there is a jumping spider species capable of killing and eating small frogs and lizards.’
Many spiders are what’s known as generalist predators, meaning they hunt across a broad range of prey.
And, this is likely the case for these particular spiders.
A new study documents several observations of this bizarre behaviour for the first time, and the experts now suspect it gives these small arachnids a survival advantage
While generalist predators may turn to alternative food sources when prey becomes scarce, it may also simply be a case of being in the right place at the right time, according to National Geographic.
‘Phidippus regius with its ability to occasionally capture small vertebrate prey in addition to its usual invertebrate prey, is a typical example of a predator with a generalist feeding behavior and the exceedingly broad feeding niche of this spider is presumed to improve its survival,’ the researchers wrote.
When it comes to hunting, personality also plays a role in jumping spiders’ behaviour, a study published earlier this week revealed.
Spiders’ behaviour varies from incredibly aggressive to docile, and researchers found that the more aggressive style leads them to make quicker decisions when going after their prey - but, without sacrificing accuracy.