Collective Batesian mimicry of ant groups by aggregating spiders
Many predators are averse to attacking ants and many palatable arthropods are Batesian mimics of ants. We considered whether aggregating Batesian mimics of ants can become more repelling to ant-averse predators by, as a group, resembling groups of ants (collective mimicry). Myrmarachne melanotarsa is a gregarious ant-like jumping spider (Salticidae) that resembles and associates with the ant Crematogaster sp. We used three large ant-averse salticids as predators in experiments. Besides M. melanotarsa and Crematogaster we used midges (Chaoborus sp.) and a small nonant-like, but gregarious, salticid (Menemerus sp.) as prey. The predators readily attacked both live midges and the nonant-like salticids that were presented singly or in groups but rarely attacked ants or ant mimics. Predators attacked ants and ant mimics presented in groups less often than they attacked solitary ants and ant mimics. In another experiment, motionless lures (groups of arthropods mounted in lifelike posture) were used. The findings showed that, independent of prey behaviour and movement, the predators were averse to being in close proximity to groups of ants and ant mimics, but had no evident aversion to the close proximity of groups of nonant-like salticids. Palatability tests demonstrated that the predators fed for long periods on M. melanotarsa, Menemerus and Chaoborus, but released Crematogaster almost immediately. Our results suggest that these predators have an innate aversion to ants and ant mimics and also that they are innately predisposed to perceive a group of ants (or ant mimics) as more repelling than solitary ants or ant mimics. © 2009 The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour.