The Web of Life (6-1) Fake Feces

 Fake Feces

Though there are exceptions, most animals avoid dung as an unsanitary hazard. A well-known exception are flies, which feast on fresh feces. Therein opportunity lays like a platter if only one can resemble a fecal splatter.

The orb-weaving spider covers its web with blotchy white decorations that resemble bird droppings. Its silver body blends in. The effect fools wasps upon which spiders dine.

Long before Asian swallowtails emerge into beautiful black-and-white butterflies, their caterpillars look like little logs of bird poop. This disguise dissuades potential predators when the young logs are most vulnerable.

The bird-dung crab spider in Singapore both looks and smells like shit. This crappy deception attracts tasty flies. Looks do kill, but it’s the scent that keeps them coming.


Although protective coloration provokes no direct behavioral response, being overlooked by a predator is a non-response that qualifies as behavior, as inaction is as much behavior as action.

The surfaces of bodies of water aren’t the commonest of habitats, but a decent number of creatures are specialized for getting around on it. ~ American zoologist Steven Vogel

A water strider rests on the surface of a pond, its feet (tarsi) repelling water while allowing the insect to support itself by water tension. Tarsi-invoked ripples let one water strider communicate with another. A water strider can tell the sex of another by its ripple messages.

Those same tarsi pick up ripples as a fly struggles on the water’s surface; signals of a meal-to-be. To a water strider, this is a warbling monologue in good taste.

Raft spiders that live in bogs independently evolved the water strider technique of using a water surface as a virtual web.