Tiny puppeteer spider observed building bigger spiders as decoys

An Amazon spider has been caught pulling the strings behind intricately built arachnid decoys. Biologist and science educator Phil Torres says the artful arachnid is the first discovered that builds "replica" spiders with eight legs. Mr Torres has recorded the spiders amazing work in a blog for ecological tourism firm Rainforest Expeditions which operates a combined lodge and research centre in the Tambopata national park in Peru.

"It (first appeared) to be a medium sized spider about an inch across, possibly dead and dried out, hanging in the centre of a spider web along the side of the trail. Nothing too out of the ordinary for the Amazon," he said. "As you approach, the spider starts to wobble quickly forward and back, letting you know this spider is, in fact, alive.

"That spider form you were looking at is actually made up of tiny bits of leaf, debris, and dead insects," he said. The culprit was spotted hiding behind its articulated arachnid-shaped shield: a tiny spider about 5mm wide. Mr Torres said he believes the fake spider is positioned as a decoy to distract and confuse predators and prey.

The puppeteer spider sitting above one of its constructions.

About 25 of the spiders - believed to be a member of the Cyclosa family - have been spotted in the floodplain surrounding the research centre since first spotted in September. However, none have yet been found further afield. Mr Torres said specimens would now have to be collected and carefully recorded before an article could be submitted to a scientific journal before it could officially be named a new species.