Vegetarian spider Bagheera kiplingi found in Central America
A caring, vegetarian spider – the first ever discovered, called Bagheera kiplingi – has been found in the forests of Central America.
By Tom Chivers
Published: 10:52AM BST 13 Oct 2009
The sandal-wearing, lefty-liberal, tofu-and-mung-bean-eating hippie spider B. kiplingi Photo: NATIONAL PICTURES
The Bagheera kiplingi – named for the kindly panther in Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book – is a jumping spider that lives in acacia trees.
Research, published in Current Biology journal (full citation below), shows that B. kiplingi is almost exclusively herbivorous, only nibbling on a few ant larvae from time to time to break the monotony.
Otherwise it eats only Beltian bodies, the nutrient-rich growths on acacias usually consumed by the ants that defend the trees in a symbiotic relationship.
No other spiders are known to be anything like as vegetarian; a few others have been known to consume nectar in small quantities, but not as a staple part of their diet.
To further endear itself to arachnophobes, B. kiplingi males are the only known examples of caring fatherhood among spiders.
The males help the mothers look after their eggs and young. Both parents remain with the young after they hatch.
• “Herbivory in a spider through exploitation of an ant-plant mutualism.” By Christopher J. Meehan, Eric J. Olson, Matthew W. Reudink, T. Kurt Kyser, and Robert L. Curry. Current Biology