Researchers have come up with an ingenious way to test the theory that male jumping spiders have evolved colourful stripes to ward off predators – they have put makeup on them.
Unlike the females of the species, the male Habronattus pyrrithrix come in vivid hues to attract mates. But scientists writing in the journal Royal Society Open Science wanted to establish whether their bright, striped backs help protect them from predators.
“In the field, when a male sees a female, he just kind of ignores his surroundings … they’re just so focused on the female that they’re not really paying attention to what’s going on behind them. So, it made us think that maybe they need some extra protection from things eating them,” said study author Dr Lisa Taylor from the University of Florida.
The researchers used makeup to paint the backs of both male and female spiders – in an effort to make each sex look like the opposite to assess whether that would change the behaviour of a key predator: the substantially larger jumping spider, Phidippus californicus.