Unusual Animals: the Stylish Mirror Spider

disco-spiderA tiny mirror spider, no more than 5mm across, scatters light through a Singapore forest thanks to a collection of small ‘mirrors’ on its abdomen.

This species is a lesserknown member of the genus Thwaitesia. Despite their blinged-up appearance, the spiders are actually masters of disguise. The mirrors provide camouflage by reflecting the surrounding environment, dispersing light like a disco ball and giving the spiders the appearance of water droplets lying on the plants.

“A spider that even an arachnophobe could love, these sequined or disco ball spiders reveal just how rich and diverse the spider fauna of the world is,” says Prof Adam Hart, BBC broadcaster and entomologist at the University of Gloucester.

The silvery patches are made up of guanine crystals, a substance that also gives fish scales their shimmer and shampoo its shine. Though they look like solid shards, the ‘mirrors’ often change in size, retracting when the arachnids are threatened and swelling up when they relax.