You know what time it is. And this week we'll be looking at a weird little spider. From the family Zodariidae, sometimes called Igloo spiders or Ant spiders. They're one of the ant-mimicking families, but also sometimes mimick termites.
They're rare to come by in general. I was lucky I found one, though she tried her damnedest to get away. I was stumped as to what spider she was. So I posted photos of her on the African Spider Map database and waited for confirmation of her family. I thought she was a spider from the family Oonopidae. Boy, was I wrong.
Luckily, the arachnologists on the Atlas confirmed her as Zodariidae and even pointed me to her genus!
• RANOPS SP. •
This is definitely one of the wackiest spiders I've found here. Not only was she my first ant-mimicking spider, but she was so well adapted to mimicry that I swore she was an ant that looked funny. On top of the mimicry, this spider has funky eyes.
Big-Eyed isn't just a pretty name. Their eyes are really huge in comparison to their carapace. It's quite comical, really. The eyes look like they're squished together because there isn't space for all of them, and with those 2 large anterior median (front middle) eyes, of course there isn't.
• GENUS •
As much as I would have loved to have determined her species, it seems the genus isn't well-studied. Apparently, thus far, only one species has been recorded in South Africa, R. robinae, but this is not to say that the one I found is indeed this species.
After going through the literature on the genus, it seems there is very little difference between the species that can be seen without a microscrope. So identifying whether this female is indeed R. robinae is near impossible by eye.
She does look a lot like the live photos and the study photos in the literature, however. But I'm only speculating and thus, I'll leave her recorded as just Ranops sp.
• DESCRIPTION •
- Class: Arachnida
- Order: Araneae
- Infra-Order: Araneamorph (true spiders)
- Family: Zodariidae
- Genus: Ranops
- Species: Unknown
Around 2mm in body length. Leg span of approximately 5mm diagonally.
Carapace brown, oval, cephalic region raised and narrow. Sternum round, glossy, light brown. Pedipalps thicker with tarsus dark, unmodified. Two large median eyes with smaller eyes to either side.
Abdomen round oval, dorsally dark brown with sheen and row of paired light brown spots pattern down centre. Ventral abdomen lighter and plain.
Legs thin, long, brown, plain, femora dark brown. Subequal in length.
• ABOUT THE GENUS •
Ranops is a small and little studied genus, southern African, that primarily feeds on ants like most Zodariidae do. Excepting one species, Ranops spiders seem to prefer the semi-desert biomes in southern Africa.
They're called Igloo spiders due to the nest they make appearing almost like the ice-dome most of us know as an igloo, made using sand and little pebbles and anything else around that's small enough attached to webbing. This is a genius way to camouflage their eggs from predators.