Ecuadorian arachnid with a strange “rabbit head”

Name : Metagrina two-columnin English “harvester rabbit”

Location : Ecuador

Special sign: It has two tiny appendages on its back, resembling a rabbit’s head.

The beast seems straight out of a cartoon or Pokemon inventory. However, it is very real. To cross it, simply head to the Amazonian forests of Ecuador and keep your eyes peeled. Because the creature is tiny, barely the width of a human thumb, not counting the legs.

Here Metagrina two-columnknown in English as “bunny harvester”, or in French “rabbit focho”. A name that perfectly sums up the strange appearance of this species. In the middle of eight long golden legs, this arachnid has a black abdomen dotted with several yellow dots and adorned with two small cone-shaped appendages.

Funny attributes that at first glance violently resemble the head of a rabbit with erect ears (or a wolf or a dog, depending on the point of view). “It’s like a mad scientist grafting a rabbit’s head onto four pairs of spider legs. Very funny ! “, – biologist Andreas Kay had fun, who is quoted by hum after encountering a harmless species in July 2017.

Not a spider, but a haymaker

It’s not actually a spider, but a harvester. The arachnid, better known as the “reaper”. It also has eight legs, usually long and thin, but its abdomen and cephalothorax are not separated like those of spiders. He also lacks poison and silk glands, so he does not spin webs or threads.

The reaper-rabbit belongs to the genus Metagreen which includes four species, all of which develop in northern South America. M. two-column was first described in 1959 by the German arachnologist Carl Friedrich Revere, who previously seemed intrigued by its curious ear protrusions.

He even included a drawing in his report to detail them. Looking closely at the footage taken by Andreas Kay, we can get a better look at the beast (he is very busy washing his paws in the video above). We can see these two chelicerae in front and a little higher, on his black cephalothorax, two small shiny dots, real arachnid eyes.

Above is a chart published in a study by Carl Friedrich Roever in 1959. Below is a specimen discovered by Andreas Kay in 2017. © Carl Friedrich Roever/Andreas Kay

The two yellow dots that look like eyes are not ears, just as bumps are not ears. It is not known what the function of these attributes is, but they can be used to make would-be predators believe that the creature is larger (and therefore more dangerous) than it appears.

The theory is untested and untested. But other arachnid species have been known to use similar tricks. Some spiders, for example, have bright colors on their front legs and mouthparts, which they rush to raise when they feel threatened to scare off intruders.

Most harvestmen are omnivorous and feed on small insects, plants, and fungi. Some catch their prey, while others turn to already dead organisms instead. But these arthropods very often fall prey to a wide variety of predators, including birds, reptiles or larger insects.

One of the richest in biodiversity on the planet

Hence the importance of deception with this false rabbit head. It remains to confirm the effectiveness of masking. In any case, it is worth paying attention to the natural curiosities hidden in the Ecuadorian forests, where the biologist Andreas Kay, who unfortunately died in 2019, conducted numerous expeditions with a camera in his hands.

Ecuador is considered one of the richest countries on the planet in terms of biodiversity. More than 1,600 species of birds, about 500 amphibians, the same number of reptiles, more than 4,000 butterflies, as well as about twenty thousand species of plants, including about 4,000 orchids, live here.

Andreas Kay’s Youtube and Flickr accounts give a glimpse of the unusual and magnificent creatures he encountered on his way to Ecuador and elsewhere. Among them, Hemeroplanes triptolemus, a moth whose caterpillar can change its appearance and become like a snake.

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