Readers’ wildlife photos

Today we have reader Tony Eales’s photos from Australia, featuring insect and spider mimicry. His notes are indented.

Some more camouflage and mimicry. First I can’t stop photographing these ant-mimicking Jumping Spiders. This photo at least gives a bit of scale for how small these little arachnids are. It’s a Myrmarachne cf luctuosa. These are relatively common, but there’s a lot of slightly different forms—some of which are probably undescribed species.

Next is a tephritid fruit fly that mimics jumping spiders probably for protection. This species is Oedaspis goodenia but there are several species with similar patterns. The patterns on the wings when held out look like a head-on silhouette of a Jumping Spider and they will make movements of the wings that increase the resemblance and mimic spider to spider threat displays of a jumping spider. Here’s one paper that looks at the phenomenon.

This next photo is an interesting colour form of Stephanopis sp, the Knobbly Crab Spider. It’s larger than the average Stephanopis. And its colouration perfectly mimics the common lichen found on the tree bark.

JAC: Here’s another photo of an S. antifrons, mimicking bark, from Brisbane Insects:

Lastly yet another Lycid Beetle mimic (boy, Lycid beetles must taste awful!). I sent a collection of Lycid mimics once before. The mimic in this case is a species of Belid Weevil, the Red Belid Weevil (Rhinotia haemoptera)which I only had a blurry photo of before. For reference I have included a shot I took of what I think is the model, the Red-shouldered Lycid Beetle, Trichalus ampliatus.


Putative model if this is a case of Batesian mimicy:


  1. Serendipitydawg
    Posted February 21, 2018 at 7:41 am | Permalink

    I wonder how much warning colouration is bluff… I suppose it depennds on the relative costs of tasting bad vs looking obvious (probably cheap, since the mods are nanostructures).

    • Jonathan Wallace
      Posted February 21, 2018 at 7:54 am | Permalink

      Well, lots and lots is the short answer. Mimicry is a frequent topic on this web-site so if you scroll back through you will find plenty of posts on mimicry and the selection pressures that give rise to it and maintain it.
      Many, many mimics are so-called Batesian mimics which means that their warning colouring is a bluff – they are harmless (i.e. no nasty sting or noxious taste)but copy the warning colours and patterns of something that is potentially harmful or unpleasant to a predator. For example there are many flies (diptera) and moths (lepidoptera) that mimic the striped patterns of bees and wasps whilst themselves lacking any sting.
      For species that do have a genuine weapon there is also a benefit to having the same warning colours and patterns as other armed species and in this case the mimicry is known as Mullerian mimicry.

      • Serendipitydawg
        Posted February 21, 2018 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

        Thank you for that. I was very interested in butterflies as a young ‘un (sadly, over 50 years ago) and was given a book of world butterflies and was struck by the Monarch/Viceroy pairing.

        I have seen many of the mimic pictures but have never twigged to the “Batesian” term. I can only assume that biologists have tested the palatability of mimics by removing their camouflage in a controlled manner to see who gets eaten.

  2. Posted February 21, 2018 at 7:58 am | Permalink

    Yessir, terrific insect photos over breakfast is the best way to start the day! Thank you for sharing these.
    Those net winged beetles (the last picture) sure do have a reputation. But of course other bad tasting and stinging insects have similar colors to net winged beetles, so they are involved in Mullerian and Batesian mimicry.

  3. Jonathan Wallace
    Posted February 21, 2018 at 7:59 am | Permalink

    Great set of photos Tony! Invertebrates are endlessly amazing!

  4. Dominic
    Posted February 21, 2018 at 8:43 am | Permalink

    Gorgeous especially the first!

    thanks 🙂

  5. busterggi
    Posted February 21, 2018 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    “some of which are probably undescribed species.”

    Can’t describe what you can’t see.

  6. Posted February 21, 2018 at 11:45 am | Permalink

    Lovely almost carrot-like orange!

  7. rickflick
    Posted February 21, 2018 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

    There’s beauty in the weeds!

  8. Heather Hastie
    Posted February 21, 2018 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    Great pics! I love the Knobbly Crab spider (and what a cool name too). That’s some amazing camouflage.

  9. loren russell
    Posted February 21, 2018 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

    Amazing how similar the Australian Trachalis is in geenral appearance to the North American species of genus Dictyoptera [not to be confused with the higher taxon comprising roaches and mantids].

    We have [nominally] three species in the wetter parts of the American west coast, from the Sierra Nevada and Coast redwood strip up to [at least] Anchorage Alaska, and [at least 2 of the species] across the boreal forest to maritime Canada and New England.

    What’s odd is that these local lycids seem rarely if ever abundant. And they are not part of a Mullerian or Batesian mimicry guild here. [Perhaps the cinnabar red, solid or with black markings, might ring a bell for a bird who’s experienced the non-native cinnabar moth, but that’s a very recent connection.

    So, for these pretty red beetles, in a very dull brown and black beetle world so conspicuous to any critter with trichromate vision, why aren’t they all sacrificed to teach naïve predators about lycid nastiness?

    Lycids are notably lightly armored, more leathery than crunchy — but possibly they are just so nasty tasting that they survive some birds’ sampling.

    A second possibility is that most of the small birds in their forest habitats winter in tropical America, where other lycids and their neighboring Muellers and Bateses teach the birds to avoid all flamboyantly cinnabor-red, or red-and-black or yellow-and-black insects or this general size and shape.

  10. eric
    Posted February 21, 2018 at 8:40 pm | Permalink

    Is that the spider which will kill an ant outside the nest, rub itself in the goo, load the ant on it’s back like a cloak, holding it’s antennae in it’s pedipalps, and then walk into the nest so it can eat the baby ants without triggering their defense response? I remember watching a show about those. Poor ants are living in a freaking horror movie.

    • tjeales
      Posted February 25, 2018 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

      No these particular jumpers don’t eat ants. They’re just trying to hide among the ants because most ants taste nasty and have lots of angry friends

  11. Posted February 22, 2018 at 5:04 am | Permalink

    Love the spider and the insects!

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