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Bagheera kiplingi
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Arachnida
Order: Araneae
Family: Salticidae
Subfamily: Dendryphantinae
Genus: Bagheera
Species: B. kiplingi
Binomial name
Bagheera kiplingi
Peckham & Peckham, 1896[1]

Bagheera kiplingi is a species of jumping spider found in Central America including Mexico, Costa Rica and Guatemala. It is the type species of the genus Bagheera, which includes one other species, B. prosper.[1] B. kiplingi is notable for its peculiar diet, which, uniquely for a spider, is mostly herbivorous. No other known spider has such a thoroughly herbivorous diet.[2][3]



The genus name is derived from Bagheera, the black panther from Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Book, with the species name honoring Kipling himself.[2] Other salticid genera with names of Kipling's characters are Akela, Messua and Nagaina. All four were named by George and Elizabeth Peckham in 1896.


Bagheera kiplingi is a colorful species, with the two sexes looking very different. The male has amber legs, a dark cephalothorax that is greenish in the upper region near the front, and a slender reddish abdomen with green transversal lines. The female's amber front legs are sturdier than the other, slender legs, which are light yellow. It has a reddish brown cephalothorax with the top region near the front black. The female's rather large abdomen is light brown with dark brown and greenish markings.

Only the male was described in 1896; the female was first described 100 years later by Wayne Maddison.[4]


The spiders inhabit Acacia trees which have a symbiotic relationship with certain species of ants, producing specialized protein- and fat-rich nubs called Beltian bodies at their leaf tips for the ants to consume. The spiders consume these nubs, which can account for over 90% of their diet, actively avoiding the ants that attempt to guard their food source against intruders. The spiders also consume nectar, also produced by the Acacias for their ant symbionts, as well as occasionally stealing ant larvae from passing worker ants for food. Especially during the dry season they also occasionally cannibalize other B. kiplingi. Despite the occasional consumption of meat, the spiders' tissues have been found to exhibit isotopic signatures typical of herbivorous animals, implying that most of their food comes from plants.[2][5]

While they feed almost exclusively on an herbivorous diet in Mexico where they inhabit more than half of Acacia collinsii trees, populations in Costa Rica, where less than 5% of Acacia are populated by B. kiplingi, do so to a lesser extent. Although this species is mostly territorial and forages solitarily, populations of several hundred specimens have been found on individual acacias in Mexico, with more than twice as many females than males. B. kiplingi appears to breed throughout the year. Observations of adult females guarding hatchlings and clutches suggest that the species is quasisocial.[3]

Implications for history of science

The symbiotic relationship between acacia trees and the ants that live on them had been closely studied for many decades, and had long been, literally, a textbook example of symbiosis in nature. Researchers discovered the unusual diet of B. kiplingi much later, a discovery attributed to student naturalists.[2] One important point seems to have been that many specialists investigate the ant-acacia relationship, but paid no attention to the spiders. Thus it took "fresh" students to avoid this kind of tunnel vision.


  1. ^ a b Platnick 2009
  2. ^ a b c d Milius 2008
  3. ^ a b Meehan et al. 2008
  4. ^ Maddison 1996
  5. ^ * Meehan, Christopher J.; Olson, Eric J.; Reudink, Matthew W.; Kyser, T. Kurt; Curry, Robert L. (2009): "Herbivory in a spider through exploitation of an ant-plant mutualism." Current Biology 19:R892-R893.


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