ON THE ROAD — The Spiny or Jewel Spider (Austracantha minax) is found throughout Australia and exists in a variety of coloured forms, but always with a shiny, enamelled look. It’s only a small spider (females 10mm and males 3mm) but is common in brush and low scrub, anchoring webs between neighbouring bushes to snag passing insects. Each individual builds its own web but they often build close together so the webs are more or less inter-connected.

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.