free ebooks

A Book of Natural History

ORNITHOSCATOIDES DECIPIENS from Cambridge


To

these may be added an as yet undescribed species which we discovered last season in a neighborhood that we had searched thoroughly for eight summers. We found the new spider in great numbers, but could only detect it by a close scrutiny of the rail fences on which it lived, its color being dark gray....

[Illustration: FIG. 5. ORNITHOSCATOIDES DECIPIENS (from Cambridge).]

The last instance that I shall cite is a predaceous spider which is disguised from both its enemies and its prey by an elaborate combination of form, color, position, and character of web. I refer to Ornithoscatoides decipiens (Fig. 5), first described by Forbes and afterwards by Cambridge, the latter author giving in the same paper descriptions of three other species of the same genus, whose habits have not been noted, but whose protection is evidently of the same order as that of decipiens. I give Forbes's interesting account of his capture of decipiens, quoting also the remarks by which Cambridge prefaces his description, since his explanation of the gradual development, through Natural Selection, of the spider's deceptive appearance applies as well to all the cases of protective disguise which have been here enumerated.

The capture is described as follows:--

"On June 25th, 1881, in the forest near the village of Lampar, on the banks of the Moesi river in Sumatra, while

my 'boys' were procuring for me some botanical specimens from a high tree, I was rather dreamily looking on the shrubs before me, when I became conscious of my eyes resting on a bird-excreta-marked leaf. How strange, I thought, it is that I have never got another specimen of that curious spider I found in Java which simulated a patch just like this! I plucked the leaf by the petiole while so cogitating, and looked at it half listlessly for some moments, mentally remarking how closely that other spider had copied nature, when, to my delighted surprise, I discovered that I had actually secured a second specimen, but the imitation was so exquisite that I really did not perceive how matters stood for some moments. The spider never moved while I was plucking or twirling the leaf, and it was only when I placed the tip of my little finger on it, that I observed that it was a spider, when it, without any displacement of itself, flashed its falces into my flesh.

"The first specimen I got was in W. Java, while hunting one day for Lepidoptera. I observed a specimen of one of the Hesperidae sitting, as is often a custom of theirs, on the excreta of a bird on a leaf; I crept near it, intending to examine what they find in what one is inclined to consider incongruous food for a butterfly. I approached nearer and nearer, and at last caught it between my fingers, when I found that it had as I thought become glued by its feet to the mass; but on pulling gently the spider, to my amazement, disclosed itself by letting go its hold: only then did I discover that I was not looking on a veritable bird's excreta....


eBook Search
Social Sharing
Share Button
About us

freefictionbooks.org is a collection of free ebooks that can be read online. Ebooks are split into pages for easier reading and better bookmarking.

We have more than 35,000 free books in our collection and are adding new books daily.

We invite you to link to us, so as many people as possible can enjoy this wonderful free website.

© 2010-2013 freefictionbooks.org - All Rights Reserved.

Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Contact Us