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Tue, Jan. 28

A salad fit for a spider

Russ Miller is an internationally syndicated cartoonist, featured in many national newspapers and magazines. Contact him at randjklm@aol.com.

Russ Miller is an internationally syndicated cartoonist, featured in many national newspapers and magazines. Contact him at randjklm@aol.com.

Scientists have discovered a spider that eats plants. This queer arachnid is a jumping spider that lives in Mexico among other places, and dines on nectar and the leaf tips of acacia shrubs. But wait, it gets weirder. Acacia plants are heavily thorned and viciously guarded by aggressive ants whose ferocity will drive off birds, rodents and caterpillars. This odd spider can avoid the ants by hiding on leaf tips, seldom patrolled by the ants, and if discovered, can vault past them to safety.

It has exceptional eyesight with a battery of frontal eyes, common to its leaping, ambush hunting relatives. So, how does an animal that typically needs to liquefy its meals develop jaws that chew and swallow, rather that dissolve and suck? No one is quite sure. And, although the acacia leaves are high in fat and protein, spider metabolisms are not equipped to digest it. Occasionally, however, these unique spiders will steal and consume an ant larvae from the "nurse" ants. It is believed that the digestive enzymes necessary for the spider to break down its food are found in these pre-ant bodies.

Nature is nothing if not imaginative!

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