Why Researchers Are Fascinated With The Spider Species That Eats Only Termites

Why Researchers Are Fascinated With The Spider Species That Eats Only Termites

Animal Predators can be either picky or indiscriminate when it comes to their feeding choices. There does not exist any predators that can eat just anything, as every predator species has its own tastes. Researchers have also never discovered any predatory animals that only consume one single species, except for one. Recently researchers discovered the very first monophagous true predator, which is a predator that consumes only one particular species of animal. The predator in question is a type of spider that belongs to the Ammoxenidae genus. Researchers have demonstrated that at least one spider species in the Ammoxenidae family preys upon, and consumes only one termite species. This termite species is known as Hodotermes mossambicus.

The Hodotermes mossambicus species of termite is more commonly referred to as the harvester termite, and they can be highly destructive to grassland and other forms of vegetation. Ammoxenid spiders live both in and out of soil and they are sometimes called sand divers due to their ability to dive headfirst into the ground when threatened. Since these termites and spiders both inhabit South African soil, they naturally encounter each other often, and these encounters never end well for the harvester termites. The spiders are always found to be concentrated in regions that are also highly populated with harvester termites, as the harvesters are their only food source. Ammoxenid spiders are able to detect termites either through vibrations or chemical cues. Once a young Ammoxenid spider is given its first harvester termite prey, the spider picks up on tactile cues from this initial encounter in order to locate more harvester termites on its own in the future.

The spider will first attack a harvester by biting one in between its head and cephalothorax. The harvester is then pulled beneath the soil’s surface where it is sucked of all its innards. Since harvester termites are not active year round, the spiders must collect enough harvester prey to keep on reserve during the termites off season. The spiders collect extra harvester termites by placing them in silken sacs for later consumption. The Ammoxenid spiders and their silken sacs are often found habitating abandoned harvester termite mounds.

Do you think that there are more spiders or insects that prey upon one particular species, but scientist have yet to discover them?