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Eustala oblonga spider on Acacia melanocerus

Eustala oblonga spider on Acacia melanocerus

In Panama, a team of entomologists has found that two species of orb-weaver spiders, Eustala oblonga (shown here, in Acacia melanocerus)and Eustala illicita, live in acacia plants that are defended by ant colonies. The spiders’ webs intercept a variety of insects, including some potential acacia pests but also some ants alates snatched during mating flights. However, the catch of ants does not seem to have a serious negative impact on the ant colony’s health. “In a sense,” says John D. Styrsky, Ph.D., of the University of Lynchburg in Virginia, “natural selection has come up with a way for the spiders to ‘hack’ the mutualism for their own benefit without inflicting a cost and thereby exerting selection pressure on the mutualism. (Photo by John D. Styrsky, Ph.D.)

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