, Volume 133, Issue 2, pp 205–215 | Cite as

Evidence suggests that modified setae of the crab spiders Stephanopis spp. fasten debris from the background

Original Paper


Crab spiders (Thomisidae) are known by their ability to change their body colouration via change in epithelial pigments. However, the crab spider genus Stephanopis appears to match the colouration of the bark they are sitting on by having debris attached to its dorsal cuticle. The functional morphology, colouration, and evolution of this phenomenon were investigated in Stephanopis cf. scabra and S. cambridgei. Analysis under the microscope revealed that debris originated from the bark they were sitting on. Using scanning electron microscopy, three different types of setae likely related in the retention of debris were found in S. cf. scabra and one in S. cambridgei. These setae are branched and possess barbs, unlike the more filiform setae found in other crab spider species. In addition, the presence of debris improved the brightness background matching of spiders against the bark, but not hue and chroma matching. Ancestral character state reconstruction suggested that presence of debris evolved two to three times within Thomisidae. The evolution of both masking and colour change among crab spiders indicates that they are under a strong selection to avoid detection.


Masking Camouflage Thomisidae Background matching Crypsis 



Author would like to thank Marie E. Herberstein for guidance and comments on this manuscript; Matthew Bulbert, James O’Hanlon, Marie E. Herberstein, Jasmin Ruch, and Olga Kazakova for helping with the collection of crab spiders; Debra Birch, Nicole Vella, and Scott Fabricant for support and guidance during the SEM imaging; Anne Wignall, Dinesh Rao, Isabel Waga, and anonymous reviewers for comments on this manuscript; and Macquarie University and the Joyce W. Vickery Scientific Research Fund of The Linnean Society of New South Wales for financial support.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesMacquarie UniversityNorth RydeAustralia

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