What is that Strange
Flower Crab Spider?

 

I found a Flower Crab Spider. What follows are my notes on its identity.

We know this much. The creature in the photo below is from the family Thomisidae, which means the animal below is a type of crab spider. Now, the mystery continues because we don't yet know its species name, or even its genus name.

Flower Crab Spider

Flower Crab Spider, photographed in El Valle de Anton, Panama

When I first saw this spider, I instantly remembered a documentary by David Attenborough in which he highlighted very specialized spiders that resembled orchids. I called this spider a 'white orchid spider.'

Here is what I have uncovered by talking to spider enthusiasts over the past couple days.

1. Flower Crab spiders don't build webs. Rather, they have complex means of ambushing their prey.

2. Many species in Thomisidae have evolved to look identical to the parts of a specific type of flower. These crab spiders are often referred to as flower spiders or, more specifically, orchid-mimic spiders, and sometimes even Flower Crab Spiders.

3. I have found an online photo of this animal, in which the author called the spider an orchid-mimic spider.'

4. The photo above was from the Amazon, but I photographed my orchid-mimic at high elevation in Panama. Such diverse geography and habitat would suggest this creature is widespread, but why then did the other reference claim he believes he is the first person to ever photograph this spider?

Updated: I received a response from the Department of Entomology, University of California Riverside. They found an image of a spider in Brazil which looks identical.

Species name? Epicadus heterogaster, or White crab Spider.

Although this is a different species, look at this David Attenborough video on the power of white crab spiders.

Just received another email from the Dept of Entemology:

The taxonomy of the genus is such that there are only six species, and it looks like only one of them is recorded outside of Brazil, actually - Epicadus granulatus. However, using geographic distribution to make a species ID is NOT wise. There is no reason that E. heterogaster could NOT be found in Panama, nor any of the 4 remaining species (or, for that matter, it could also be undescribed).

Labelling the photo "Epicadus sp." would be as far as you could go, then.