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Pollinator attraction

Crab-spiders manipulate flower signals

Nature volume 421, page 334 (23 January 2003) | Download Citation



Some European species of crab-spider match the colour of the flower on which they lie in wait to ambush insect pollinators, a tactic that is presumed to camouflage them from their intended prey and from predators1,2. Here we show that the coloration of an Australian species of crab-spider, Thomisus spectabilis, which is cryptic on the white daisy Chrysanthemum frutescens to the human eye, is highly conspicuous to ultraviolet-sensitive insect prey — but that, instead of repelling foraging honeybees (Apis mellifera) as might be expected, the contrast of the spider against the petals makes the flowers more attractive. The spider is apparently exploiting the bee's pre-existing preference for flowers with colour patterning.

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Author information


  1. *Institute of Zoology, University of Vienna, 1090 Vienna, Austria

    • Astrid M. Heiling
  2. †Department of Biological Sciences, Macquarie University, North Ryde, New South Wales 2109, Australia

    • Marie E. Herberstein
  3. ‡School of Biological Sciences, Queen Mary College, University of London, London E1 4NS, UK

    • Lars Chittka


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Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Correspondence to Astrid M. Heiling.

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