Wildlife

Q&A: New Spider Weaves Spider-Shaped Web

Wildlife biologist Phil Torres recently discovered a new species of spider in the Amazon that would take first prize at any costume party. This tiny five-millimeter-long spider builds a decoy spider around five times its size to scare off potential predators.

After describing his find on his blog, Torres sat down with Weird & Wild to share the story of how he came to find this new species of spider.

Q: How did you first spot this spider?

A: I was at the Tambopata Research Center in Peru (map), which is a ten-hour canoe ride from the nearest town. I was leading a rain forest expedition with a videographer, and one of them called me over and said “Hey, look at this. It looks like a dead spider.” We went over there and realized pretty quickly that something interesting was going on.

It looked like a spider that had been killed by a fungus—it had this flaky, evaporated look to it. But then the thing started moving, and we realized that there was something alive in there. There was another one near it with a similar design. We put two and two together and realized that this was a fake spider. There was a small spider living behind this fake spider constructed out of debris. (Also see Photos: World’s Biggest, Strongest Spider Webs Found.”)

Had anyone previously documented this spider?

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.

Talking to Dr. Rayor, we determined that this spider was probably in the genus Cyclosa, because they are also known to make structures in their webs, but the other decoys are a bit more simple.

Trojan horse? A new species of spider hides behind a giant decoy it builds out of debris. Photo courtesy Phil Torres.

The decoy made by this new spider is much more detailed and difficult to construct because it has the body structure and the leg structure. The first decoy we came across looked really good—it had eight legs, and it really looked like a spider hanging in its web. But we saw other decoys that had four legs, or seven legs, or other numbers. From afar, though, they all really look like spiders, and it’s probably enough to fool predators.

So is that the purpose of the decoy? To confuse predators?

From what we know about other Cyclosa, yes. If you’re a big predator looking to feed on a big spider, you might get close and realize that Oh, there’s only a small spider there that’s not worth the effort. A smaller predator looking to eat a small spider would see the decoy and think it was trying to go after a much bigger spider. (See Largest Web-Spinning Spider Found.”)

The variation in decoy leg numbers could mean that the system is still evolving and is not quite perfect. It could also mean that the variation is beneficial—a lot of times, predators can learn patterns very quickly. If they only made one type of decoy, the predators could learn to associate the real spider with the decoy.

What needs to be done to establish this as a new species?

I need to collect specimens and send them to an expert on Cyclosa. Literature will be examined to see if the spider can be identified based upon its morphological characteristics. If it can be identified, it is likely not a new species, but if it can’t be identified then we are dealing with a new species. The key is to compare certain physical characteristics, like the male genitalia, to determine the species’ status.

Carrie Arnold is a freelance science writer living in Virginia. When she’s not writing about cool critters, she’s spending time outside, drinking coffee, or knitting.

Carrie is a freelance science writer living in Virginia. When she's not writing about cool critters, she's spending time outside, drinking coffee, or knitting. You can visit her website at http://www.carriearnold.com
  • Wolfe

    Mosaic Spider

  • Class 2B

    We are a grade 2 class who has just been amazed by your video. We think that a cool name for the spider could be the Ghost Spider. Thank you for sharing your discovery.

  • Marian Schwarzenbach

    Fascinating–spiders can count! And they’re artistic and plan ahead logically! We had a giant Hobo spider that suddenly rolled over and played dead very dramatically. A few seconds later it had grabbed a “dust kitten” to hold in its legs as it played dead.

  • Carrie Arnold

    Thanks for your comments, everyone! A lot of you have given suggested names for the new spider—please keep them coming!

  • Megann McCowan

    Great article, I was thinking the Beguile Spider ?

  • Ron Rodgers

    How about the Masquerade Spider?

  • Ramona

    A name such as: Salvador Dali, Dali was quite the character and his paintings reflect that.

  • Al

    I like the name…Trojan Spider !

  • Chelsea

    Hi i’m 14 from b.c. and I believe this spider should be called Leonardo spider, because it seems to create a “Painting of itself” As Leonardo did once. Another name I was thinking would be good is Mimic Web spiders. As it creates a mimic of a spider in its own web. Quite an ironic spider though. Amazing find.

  • Ashley Chambers

    It should be called the meme spider. 🙂 It’s modern but catchy so maybe you could get more people to talk about it!

  • Steven D’Ambrose

    Doppelganger Spider.

  • Robert

    The Mighty Oz Spider
    First thing that popped into mind was this little guy thinking he’s scaring you off…lol

  • Matt McClure

    Name it after an artist (sculpture) Michaelangelo etc. or maybe the sphinx spider in that it construct an image.

  • Blake

    Name it the scare crow spider or the ersatz spider.
    Maybe call it xerox spider

  • Hamid

    Amazing … I would call it Collage Spider

  • Sarah Green

    I was actually thinking that it should be called the “Decoy Spider”, or even “Shadow Spider”.

  • Angie

    Amazing! His name should be Trojan Spider of course.

  • Matt McClure

    Ooohh ..The “Marionette Spider” ..that would make alot of sense too the way he menipulates it with the strands

  • Maria M

    It’s very interesting, especially his reproduction of a biggest spider. This demonstrate that they have a really great strategy of surviving. I was thinking at Mimic-spider. Congratulations!

  • Raghu

    How about “Artist Spider” ?

  • Kenneth Cole

    I like the name xdrfox came up with Michelangelo spider or Sue Lawrence’s suggestion “portrait spider” which is a pretty cool name to.
    Being a photographer I also like “The Image spider”

    Whatever name ya’ll pick, I would hope that it would be more of a title then a name because it’s a rather cool unique spider deserveing of title and lands from King and Nations! Well done gentlemen!!!

  • dennis lau jakobsen

    NICE!!! Captatrix spider, is at god name, captatrix Means pretender in Latin.

  • Paul Moreno

    I would name it the Monet Spider for it’s impressionist capabilities.

  • marek

    Krásnej pavoucek 😀

  • BJ Bancroft

    Maybe Doppelganger Spider?

    I love Effigy Spider, good call.

  • Sam

    Okay, so, this spider has proven that it knows its own body’s composition, has it not? Does this not prove that this spider is self-aware?

  • n. sickles

    snare spider, or the temptress spider. My favorite being the latter of the two.

  • William Spheres

    What a cool thing you have done here I believe it should be called the Scarecrow Keeper Spider.

  • Rich

    This is pretty awesome. You should call it a Decepticon Spider if it turns out to be a new species. Arachnid Deceptio for the Latin version. Transformers + spiders = awesome….er 🙂

  • ef

    how about carrie deception finder.. carrie c/o the poster and also the spider carries debris to deceive..

  • David Gaunt

    I would name it the Loki spider, after the Norse “trickster” god.

  • Janie C. Stege

    Call it the ” SHIVER SPIDER ”
    Wonder why spider moves like this on its web?
    Is he trying to allure other insects to his web to eat or trying to keep other insects from attacking him!
    Is this spider dangerous? He does not have a perfect weaved web, any reasons as to why. How does he keep is illusional spider from falling or breaking up in his web?

  • candido

    DaVinci Spider

  • candido

    Cloner Spider

  • Rocky Castaneda

    Mascot Spider 😀

  • Starlene

    Decoy would be good

  • Kory

    Mimic Spider

  • Manuel Ching

    what about naming it “Shadow Caster”? like when someone casts a humongous shadow on the wall?

  • Debbi Brewer

    cloning spider or cloned decoy spider

  • Than Saw

    My proposal is either “Dennis Gabor Spider” or “Gábor Dénes Spider” also to honour the Hungarian-British physicist who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1971 “for his invention and development of the holographic method”.

  • Dex

    Doppeler splder.

  • POST

    Naruto spider

  • Mario Cruz

    I would call it goliath spider

  • Eileen

    Trojan Spider

  • Matt

    I like the names “effigy” and “decoy”.

    Another idea is “surrogate” or “substitute” spider

  • Matthew Maksimoski

    This is awesome! I’m a zoology student and I’m continually amazed by the awesome things that the animals we’re discovering every day can do. As for a name, I like the Puppet Spider. Hope to hear more from you guys as you make more progress on speciation!

  • Nathaniel L. Hepowit

    Mummy Spider

    Mask Spider

    Mimic Spider

  • Nicky P W

    Spiderception.

  • John Miranda

    Pearl B. would like to offer the name: Trickster Spider

  • Patrick

    the I spider

  • Patrick

    The i-spider

  • Peter Bouvier

    The Doppelgänger Spider.

  • DAki23

    Its awsome i would call him a decoy-spider or slender-spider

  • Cara Frazier

    The Pseudo Spider

  • ervin rizal

    sinister spider ,i hope you like that

  • Tim

    Yolo spider?

  • Amber Magaw

    Decoy Spider, Amazonian Decoy Spider, Imitation Spider, Amazonian Imitation Spider, Trojan Spider, Amazonian Trojan Spider, Trojan Decoy Spider, Trojan Imitation Spider.

  • alrey escudero

    how about the brainy spider???

  • Thomas Story

    Marionette Spider

  • Jake Richmond

    Pretty Wicked….Id call it the marionette spider…

  • Abdullah

    “The likeness of those who choose other patrons (protector, helper) than Allah is as the likeness of the spider when it takes unto herself a house, and lo! the frailest (weakest) of all houses is the spider’s house, if they but knew. (41) Lo! Allah knows whatever thing they invoke instead of Him. He is the Mighty, the Wise”. “Qur’an” 29:41

    Great Job 🙂

  • esme

    mosiac spider sounds nice

  • Arnaud

    I just wonder what is the benefit for a small spider to look bigger in its net ? Wouldn’t that warn other insects to get trapped in the net ?

  • James Hung

    This is super cool! Reminds me of the Wizard of Oz, who has a scary front but is actually just a little dude.

  • Jodi Foster

    I hate spiders but am fascinated with them. Here are a few name ideas for the spider:
    Harmonic
    Pulsator
    Vibe-spide
    All these due to the fact that is vibrates the web.

  • Jake Markgraf

    The Waylay Spider

  • Thomas Story

    Or Krang – like the brain that controls the shell of a body from TMNT.

  • andrei

    good job.
    something else for humans to destroy …..

  • Will

    Gotta give Dentin some credit for catching that all on film. Everyone should to subscribe to his awesome channel linked at the top.

  • Kenneth Dawson

    so this spider is aware of what it actually looks like? kinda crazy! sounds like something from a Crichton novel! imagine if it learns what the predators of it’s predators looks like and starts weaving those into webs… hmmm….

  • Mark Gray

    Interesting find it is always good when something new is discovered, In the video an orb weaver was mentioned so what about a Clone Weaver

  • Nichole Ramsey

    Id name it possum spider! Great video.

  • Nichole Ramsey

    I’d name him possum spider. Faked u guys out.

  • Peter Triadopoulos

    Call him “Fantum Spider” (Phantom Spider)

  • Dreau

    For the much-deserved credit:

    Torres Trickster Spider

  • Toby

    nice….this little critter is a puppet master, as it seems.

  • Cindy m Cain

    I think you should call it the Copycat Spider.
    Or the Mirrored Spider.
    Or how about the Kangaroo spider, since it’s trying to hide itself within it’s own species?

  • Gizzy

    Decider, little mix of decoy and spider

  • nathanael gage

    blotch spider

  • Ants

    Puppeteer Spider, lol. I heard some other Cyclosa-s even vibrate theyr web (when feel threatened) so puppet/decoy even seems to move 0_O

    I,m sure its Cyclosa and also that in time we see more very interesting ones discovered of this spieces.

  • Kate

    Projector spider!

  • Alicia

    Should call it the ‘Wicker Man’ spider

  • Ben Allman

    Interesting find!

    How about Spectre Spider?

  • Lana Ellis

    Decoy spider

  • Lana Ellis

    Amazonian
    Trojan horse spider

  • AHMAD ALJUBARA

    Nice!!
    eighty spider

  • Nicky Possemiers

    I would call him the skeleton spider !

  • Ants

    Why I think Puppeteer or puppet master would fit.
    1) This decoy is theoreticali spider puppet.
    2) They move it using web-strings like we do with puppets (puppets used in theater that have strings attached so could be moved without showing human moving it.

  • jesse daugherty

    i say you call it the doppleganger spider!

  • Felipe

    Trojan Horse Spider would be an amazing name 🙂

  • Dennis Angelov

    My suggestion – The Trickster

  • Daniel P Rego

    The most obvious name for this would be “Decoy Spider”, but i liked the michelangelo spider idea too, because doing that is ART

  • ajay varma

    I wld suggest a name ‘mithya’……meaning unreal……:)

  • Paul Shelley

    I think the Doppleganger Spider would be the perfect name, it creates a spooky character for a really creepy arachnid.

  • alex rossell

    Camera work was a bit off. Too many lights into the lens.

  • Than Saw

    Am I allowed to add one more names “The Holographic Spider”. to the first two names, “Dennis Gabor Spider” or “Gábor Dénes Spider” which were posted on 24 January 2013?

    Thanks and apology for coming back to you. The evolution of this artistic spider intelligence is so exciting.

    Previous Comment on
    January 24, 10:07 pm
    My proposal is either “Dennis Gabor Spider” or “Gábor Dénes Spider” also to honour the Hungarian-British physicist who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1971 “for his invention and development of the holographic method”.

  • Michael Lake

    Puppeteer Spider (because it manipulates the ‘puppet’ version of itself)

    Geppetto Spider (after the ultimate puppeteer)

    Michelangelo Spider (after the greatest *human* sculptor)

    Avatar Spider (because it build a self likeness)

  • chris

    the spider is kool, but who ever was the camera man, SUCKED! you really couldnt see the spider cuz he didnt sit still or get a really good shot of it! ya’ll need someone better to film for you if your going to be filming any new animals or anything, that was like a rookie camera man! that was horrible!

  • Maarten De Koster

    Doesn’t this indicate a level of self-awareness the likes of which we would never have associated with a tiny spider? I mean, to realize what you look like, and to reconstruct it… I don’t think there’s any other creature in the world that does this, other than humans.

  • Shony

    Amazing, how I love nature, thank you… Here are a few name suggestions:

    1. The Ghosting Spider.
    2. The staging Beaver Spider.
    2. The Wishful Spider.

    Cheers

  • crista thomas

    I would call him; “mimickme” spider

  • Ryc Stine

    the ‘Carly Simon’ spider.

  • Korby Bohannon

    The “Charlatan-Arachnid” or the “Nominal-Spider.”

  • Bob Nelmes

    Smart!

  • David Smith

    My immediate thought was avatar spider – but it’s already been suggested by Michael Lake of Toronto, Canada above – so I second his suggestion…

  • Alice (5yrs)

    Invisable spider

  • Zachary (7yrs)

    Copier spider/xerox spider

  • Alice 5yrs

    Invisible/cloak spider

  • Bruce

    I have briefly scanned thru the previous posts. There is some excellent suggestions! My first thought was “The Pretender Spider”.

  • Carrie Arnold

    Okay, wow! These are so fantastic–if you have any more ideas, please share. You never know if you might end up picking the same name that the scientists end up using!

  • Oka Last

    How about The Deceiver … nature is amazing!

  • hendra

    Jodhy Spider

  • J

    Masquerade Spider

  • Betty Bradford

    Fascinating. Perhaps Skeuomorphic Arachnid

  • kahfi mubarok

    i call a “white spider” or “laba-laba putih”

  • Matías Córdoba

    Wow! this is amazing! Congratulatios and thanks for the piece of infomation. I don’t know the species, I was so excited!

  • Nathalie

    Mimicus aranea
    Or
    Ethologus araneus

  • Pier

    I think we shuold call it the CONCEALER, because it coneals it’s identity, are call it the CLOAK because it Use the design of a lareger spider to cover it’s real indentity.

  • Karen

    Metarachnid.

  • N.G.

    Swindler Spider
    David Copperweb
    Manti Te’o.

  • Blu

    I would name this awesomeness a “Morphous Spider”! Yep! Bad to the bone.

    Blu

  • Alejandro

    narcissus arachnid

    Because it loves itself so much it creates its self image.

  • mikael

    it’s so cool…i would call it the illusion spider

  • Noelle Warwar

    If we didn’t know any better one could be forgiven for suspecting self awareness. Therefore i have to suggest ‘ego spider’. Btw, I enjoyed the enthusiasm of the video presenter as much as I did the discovery!

  • Sam Harris

    the Rodin Spider
    the Philosopher King Spider
    the Gestell Spider (or Enframing Spider)
    the Vincent Spider

  • Sam Harris

    the Chuck Close Spider (or simply Close Spider)

  • Ruth Bivins

    Puppeteer spider: It’s like he builds a marionette, then puts on a show with it. But to what purpose, exactly?

  • Skai

    Artisan Spider?

  • Michele Glover

    I vote for Trojan Horse Spider!

  • The Tobster

    I think the “Duplicator Spider” would be an epic name as it tries to make a bigger copy of itself out of debris.

  • Maitiú Ó Coimin

    The Marionnette (spelling?) Spider?

  • Al Hill

    January 27,12.38pm I think the simple and most obvious name would be “The Cloaked Cyclosa”

  • Kathy Bishop

    Call him Charlie.

  • t swink

    Bizarro Spider

  • Simon E Jepps

    My suggestion: The MANNEQUIN Spider. After all this is the precise definition of building an artificial construct of yourself.

  • Jeremy

    Shadow Weaver…

  • Guy Dalziel

    I’d like to throw in the name ‘Cyclosa artifice’.

    I love spiders and I think they’re absolutely fascinating creatures. They the best predator on this planet. This is certainly one for the books.

    Considering the amount of variation in the decoy forms, I’m guessing that this particular spider just got lucky and just happened to make 8 legs. However, if there’s a strong process of natural selection, then the 8 leg form should certainly become more dominant.

  • Robert

    How about the Ghillie Spider.

  • Sarah Brown

    My son came up with the name “Mentior” from the Latin to fake

  • zealin glickrieman

    The Amazon Deceiver Spider
    or
    The Sculptor Spider

  • mario

    i think the name for the spider should be out cast spider

  • Lochie

    I think it should be called ‘the Clone Spider’ or the Spideroid.

  • Dennis Angelov

    My second suggestion is Itsy Bitsy Spider 😀

  • Marirosa

    I would definitely go with ” Decoy spider” . Good job, guys! Congratulations! 🙂

  • Carrie

    Phantom Spider =)

  • Yensi Ferrufino (9)

    You should name it DECOY spider.

  • Linda

    “the little spider syndrome”
    Superman spider
    Shielded spider
    Chameleon sepider

  • Linda

    chameleon spider
    sheilded spider
    small spider syndrome
    superman spider

  • Heidi

    The Di vinci Spider,
    The Rembrant Spider
    The van gogh

    etc

  • JIK

    “That’s some”…spider

    How about the Charlotte orb? (and wont Wilbur be proud?)

    🙂

  • MaryBeth Dailey

    I like Puppeteer spider! Great idea up there. This was a cool video!

  • sallyvision@yahoo.co.uk

    I think the spider could be called little willy, or, big car syndrome!

  • gribblefluff

    I think the spiders name could be little willy or, big car syndrome!

  • barry yudaken

    Call it the Thespian spider. It puts on a fine act.

  • lisa M Viscussi

    The canvas spider, for using the same as a canvas

  • Eve-o

    Charlotte Spider

  • Mary Peterson

    The Silhouette Spider … for it’s ability to create a lifelike image of it’s own species. Great artistic talent. Of course, you could always consider calling it The Van Gogh.

    Mary – Idaho USA

  • Mary Peterson

    The Silhouette Spider … for it’s ability to create a lifelike image of it’s own species. Great artistic talent for such a little creature. Animals amaze me, though spiders and most little crawling creatures creep me out, they can be amazing to watch. Good luck guys, thanks for the video & update.

    Mary Peterson – Southern Idaho USA

  • Michael Fields

    Arachnid Hespaestus (God of sculpture)

    Arachnoicontekton ? Spider image builder

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