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.
Deadly in disguise…. the spider Amyciaea albolmaculata has a body shape and colour scheme which mimics that of green tree ants (Oecophylla smaragdina) because it normally lives only near these ants and is claimed to feed exclusively on them.
This species is usually found hanging from a strand of silk where green tree ants — an ubiquitous species of Australia’s tropical savannas — are present.
Distinguishing features of this spider include the two black ‘false eyes’ on its abdomen and two pairs of large, black lateral eyes on the spider’s head. Amyciaea tends to hang on a strand of silk by its fourth pair of legs with the first two pairs extended sideways ready to capture any ants that come near it. Amyciaea and the theridiid(?), ‘Corinnomma’, have a very similar appearance, presumably because they are both attempting to mimic the same green tree-ant species. The most useful visible differences between these two spiders are that Amyciaea has large lateral eyes whereas Corinnomma’s eyes are all relatively small and there are only two black false eyes on the abdomen of Amyciaea but ‘Corinnomma’ has four of these.
Species: Amyciaea albomaculata (RM) Family: Thomisidae Body length: female: 7 mm male: 6 mm.
I took these photos at Kabulwarnamyo on the West Arnhem Plateau and found the information about the spider on the web (no pun intended) in the Find a Spider Guide to Spiders of South-East Queensland.