Okay, so 1) this spider (called Bagheera kiplingi after the Jungle Book) is the single vegetarian species out of 40,000 species of spider. “The jumping arachnid, which is 5–6mm long, has developed a taste for the tips of the acacia plants – known as Beltian bodies – which are packed full of protein.”
2) Beltian bodies are no good to the acacia plant, they’re not like buds or shoots or anything. The acacia is a type of myrmecophyte – a plant that has a symbiotic relationship with ants. It grows Beltian bodies for the ants to eat, and oversized thorns for them to hollow out and live in, and the ants aggressively attack any grazing animals or creeping vines that threaten the acacia. Or any spiders that try to steal the Beltian bodies.
3) “The spiders live on the plants – but way out on the tips of the old leaves, where the ants don’t spend a lot of time, because there isn’t any food on those leaves.”
But when they get hungry, the spiders head to the newer leaves, and get ready to run the ant gauntlet.
“They wait for an opening – they watch the ants move around, and they watch to see that there are not any ants in the local area that they are going after.
“And then they zip in and grab one of these Beltian bodies and then clip it off, hold it in their mouths and run away.
“And then they retreat to one of the undefended parts of the plant to eat it.”
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