Family Mimetidae

Pirate spiders

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Currently there are 32 species of Mimetidae in two genera; Australomimetus with 31 species and Ero with a single species.
These spiders hunt on other spiders. Especially Orb-weavers and the Theridiidae are on their menu list.
Most hunters without a web wait secretly for prey to approach, like the crab spiders or they actively hunt like the jumping and wolf spiders
The Pirate spider feed on spiders that live in orb webs and they will not leave the web easily.
But when the web is vibrated in the right frequency, like as prey has flown in, the web spider will run to the vibration source. In this case the hungry Pirate spider.
The Pirate spider vibrates the web with its front leg, waits and kills the approaching spider with a quick bite.
Pirate spiders may also feed on the insects they find in the orb web.


Genus Australomimetus

Australomimetus_ZZ669 sp. Picture by Julie Newton  
Australomimetus_ZZ668 sp. Picture by Robert Whyte Australomimetus_ZZ668 sp. Picture by Robert Whyte
Australomimetus_ZZ463 sp. Picture by Robert Whyte Note the long spines on their forelegs

Genus Ero

 

Ero aphana is the single species in this genus and is introduced. They are found in SW-Western Australia and locally in Queensland.
This attractive spider is very small; the size varies between 2.5 and 4 mm.
The legs usually have clear rings of pigment and the last two segments of their first forelegs are armed with a series of long alternated short spines.
This is a spider killer as her name suggests in German; Spinnenfresser (spider eater). She seeks out other webs and plucks the threads of the web with her legs to attract the prey. After a quick attack and lethal bite, with a quickly paralyzing venom, she sucks the victim dry through a hole in the legs of the victim.
Her eggs are laid in a cocoon surrounded with a wiry silk and are left to hatch on their own. Every female makes 2 -3 sacs. The sacs can be seen in late summer far more often than the spider itself.

 

Note the wiry silk around the cocoon that resembles a copper thread
Egg cocoon by Alois Scheuwimmer. Ero aphana feeding on Theridion sisyphium by Alois Scheuwimmer.
Ero aphana subadult by Alois Scheuwimmer Ero aphana adult female by Alois Scheuwimmer

 

Ed Nieuwenhuys, 29 august 2018