Masters of Deception

Two remarkable masters of deception seen on a trip to Malaysia a few years ago. The bird-dropping spider (Phrynarachne decipiens) was encountered beside a boardwalk at the wonderful Gunung Mulu National Park in Sarawak. I thank Wiki for the ID and behavioural notes, which say, in part: ” It crouches stationary on a leaf…and exhibits an elaborate combination of form and colour, the posture it adopts and the character of its web so as to simulate accurately a patch of bird’s execreta. The effect is to create the impression of a semi-solidified bird’s dropping with a white raised centre with black specks, a surrounding thinner, more liquid portion and even a drip effect on the lowest margin ending in a little knob. …the spider emits an odour not unlike bird excreta.” The disguise may work two ways: enabling the spider (in typical crab spider style) to quietly await an unwary victim and also perhaps fooling birds who might enjoy a spider snack. The butterfly was seen perched on a piece of rotting pineapple laid out for the enjoyment of denizens of the Butterfly Park in Kuala Lumpur. A dip into Wiki leaves me convinced it is Kallima paralekta, the Indian or Malayan Leafwing. With wings folded the underside mimics a dry leaf, with veins and even a mid-rib. The uppersides are colourful, but quite different for male and female. The rear of the wings even end in pointed narrow tail resembling a leaf petiole.

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