I’ve now caught five spiders, and seen seven, living on those spiny Vachellia plants. No sign of Bagheera kiplingi so far, which has me kind of worried, although I am very curious about this new spider that keeps showing up. Is it a vegetarian, too? If it is, I don’t think that it is a close relative of Bagheera kiplingi, because the spiders that I think are males don’t have forward-projecting mouthparts like other Bagheera spiders do.
If this is a completely different type of vegetarian jumping spider, it would mean that a unique system of spiders exploiting a food source meant for ants would have evolved twice. Then again, maybe these other jumping spiders are living on the plants because they use the ants for protection, because as long as they can avoid the patrols, the ants can mount a very effective defense–trust me, I know from experience! There is another type of spider that also uses Pseudomyrmex ants for protection, although the ants will kill it with stings if it ever gets discovered. To keep that from happening, the spider usually keeps absolutely still until nightfall, when the spiders become active after the ants go to sleep.
There is also the possibility that I am finding this spider entirely by coincidence, and that it’s just dumb luck that I’m not finding this little arachnid anywhere besides on Vachellia plants. Such is the valuable tool of scientific investigation, which should allow me to determine exactly what I truly seeing, and not just what I want to see. Of course, this investigation needs a lot more data before I can make any conclusions, so after a few hours in the laboratory today, it’s back off to the “campo” I go!