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Psyche
Volume 2012 (2012), Article ID 151989, 23 pages
http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2012/151989
Review Article

Spider-Ant Associations: An Updated Review of Myrmecomorphy, Myrmecophily, and Myrmecophagy in Spiders

Department of Zoology, Denver Museum of Nature & Science, 2001 Colorado Boulevard, Denver, CO 80205, USA

Received 3 October 2011; Accepted 18 December 2011

Academic Editor: Jean Paul Lachaud

Copyright © 2012 Paula E. Cushing. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Abstract

This paper provides a summary of the extensive theoretical and empirical work that has been carried out in recent years testing the adaptational significance of various spider-ant associations. Hundreds of species of spiders have evolved close relationships with ants and can be classified as myrmecomorphs, myrmecophiles, or myrmecophages. Myrmecomorphs are Batesian mimics. Their close morphological and behavioral resemblance to ants confers strong survival advantages against visually hunting predators. Some species of spiders have become integrated into the ant society as myrmecophiles or symbionts. These spider myrmecophiles gain protection against their own predators, live in an environment with a stable climate, and are typically surrounded by abundant food resources. The adaptations by which this integration is made possible are poorly known, although it is hypothesized that most spider myrmecophiles are chemical mimics and some are even phoretic on their hosts. The third type of spider-ant association discussed is myrmecophagy—or predatory specialization on ants. A table of known spider myrmecophages is provided as is information on their biology and hunting strategies. Myrmecophagy provides these predators with an essentially unlimited food supply and may even confer other protections to the spiders.