Even with our unique sense of self-awareness, lofty intellect, and refined tactile ability, still only a few highly-skilled artisans among us are capable of reproducing the human form with any degree of realism. Yet for one tiny spider, recently discovered in the Peruvian Amazon, creating an incredibly lifelike decoy of itself seems to come naturally.
While on a recent expedition in the thick of the rainforest, wildlife biologist Phil Torres and his team stumbled across an interesting-looking spider perched atop its web. But upon closer examination, they noticed that the eight-legged figure was, in fact, not an arachnid at all -- but rather just a bit of debris sculpted to look exactly like a spider.
The artist behind the work, as the team discovered, was literally hiding behind it. A crafty little spider, just five-millimeter-long, appears to have fashioned that larger decoy to ward off any predators that might consider it an easy meal. With what appears to be eight legs, a head, and a thorax, no one could quite believe how that little spider could create such an anatomically correct, slightly more intimidating, self-portait.
Perhaps just as remarkably, the moment of discovery was even caught on film:
In an interview with National Geographic, Torres says that the decoy-building spider appears to be one that's new to the world of science:
After freaking out a bit, we took a bunch of pictures to really document what we had seen. I contacted Linda Rayor, one of my professors from Cornell who does a lot of spider-behavior research, and asked if she had seen anything like this. She said she hadn’t. She passed the photo around, and I contacted a few more places, and everyone said that no, they had never seen anything like it.
While the discovery of a spider can build such a realistic-looking replica of itself is nothing short of mind-blowing, there's no telling what manner of species remain unknown. Over the last ten years, scientists have identified 1,200 remarkable new organisms in just this region alone.
And with an average 3 new species are being discovered every day, it's reassuring to know that our understanding of the natural world is always improving -- even if that means coming to grips with the fact that even a tiny spider can be a better artist than most of us.