In a possible affront to its fierce meat-eating relatives, one jumping spider prefers to dine vegetarian, munching on specialized leaf-tips of acacia shrubs, finds a new study.
The eight-legged vegetarian, called Bagheera kiplingi (named after Kipling of The Jungle Book fame), lives in Central America, and is now considered a rarity among the world’s 40,000 or so spider species, most of which are strictly predators, feeding on insects and other animals. B. kiplingi is about the size of a person’s pinky nail.
Instead it has developed a laidback lifestyle based on nutritious wild acacia plants — and has no need to spin a web to catch its prey.
The females have even dispensed with the time-honoured spider custom of eating their sexual partners immediately after mating. The vegetarian diet of B kiplingi appears to have prompted other changes. Since it no longer needs to go through the energy-sapping business of catching prey, it has diverted its web-spinning abilities to building family homes. Mothers use the nests to rear their young.
A vegetarian diet may also encourage the typically territorial spiders to cooperate, says Christopher Meehan at the University of Arizona in Tucson, who has seen hundreds gathering on one plant, entire families sharing nests, and males defending nests from ant attacks.
“These spiders may be the ‘Gandhis’ of the spider world: life-long vegetarians, they tolerate one another’s company and may even cooperate peacefully in the true sense. The abundance of food available to it may be allowing it to let down its defences.” says Meehan.
“This may be a fascinating snapshot into the evolution of a social creature as it transitions from hunter to gatherer.”
Going veggie makes you gentler and look cuter!