Killer Legs: Crab Spider Wins Prize with Eight!
On Sunday, February 26, Museum Educator Anna Holden, and myself took some families out to the North Campus to collect spiders! The spiders were collected so they can be identified and preserved as part of our ongoing L.A. Spider Survey. They will also be added to our ever-growing North Campus species list.
All told, we collected 17 spiders (not bad for a newly planted habitat) many of which were very small and non-descript – think tiny brown specks almost indistinguishable from a piece of dirt (did I mention these children have amazing eyesight?). However, there was one spider that stood out from the crowd. She was large, and yellow, and had oh such lovely legs! Let me introduce you to the Whitebanded Crab Spider, Misumenoides formosipes (her species name is derived from the Latin formosus = beautiful and pes = foot or leg).
This group of spiders is so named for their crab-like appearance and movement. They are adept at quickly moving sideways, backwards, and forwards. This quick movement is only infrequently observed by us humans, as they are "sit and wait" predators. This means they sit very still on a flower and wait for pollinators to visit, and then, quick as a flash, they'll attack and subdue their prey. Also of note, they can change color! Watch out chameleons, these eight-legged lovelies also have the ability to better blend in with their surroundings. Although it has to be said that they can't deviate greatly from their original color and the process takes a few days to complete.
The beautiful specimen we found on Sunday was a female. The sexes are very easy to distinguish as the males are a lot smaller and much less rotund. She was collected on the bright yellow, sunflower-like flowers of Encelia californica, commonly known as bush sunflower. Next time you are in the North Campus, check out the bush sunflowers planted atop the living wall. Who knew so much drama could be unfolding on each and every flower?
Thanks to Karen Ewald for taking the spider collecting picture.