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Digital Subscriptions > Newsweek International > 23rd December 2016 > LEAF ME ALONE


Researchers find the first spider that camouflages itself as foliage


ON AN EVENING trek through the tropical forests of southern China, researcher Matjaz Kuntner and colleagues spied a strand of spider silk from which a row of leaves oddly dangled. They inspected, shining their flashlights on the curious sight. Then one of the leaves moved.

“Looking closer, we realized that one of them was not a leaf, it was a spider,” says Kuntner, an arachnologist at the Research Center of the Slovenian Academy of Science and Arts. “I was shocked.” Many species of insects resemble leaves, but this is the first arachnid known to look like foliage. This form of mimicry, in which animals camouflage themselves as uninteresting and inedible objects to evade predators, is known as masquerade.

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