Mimicry in a Spotted Planthopper

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Since I’m often looking high in the trees for large dragons, I often miss out on the tiny natural wonders constantly around me. Walking through the forest with both large and extremely small search images has been one of the biggest challenges for me in the field. So far I have found a good balance, but I still need to consciously alternate between them as I glance over vegetation. During one of my micro-sessions I found a very colorful planthopper in the genus Rhotana (Derbidae: Otiocerinae), just 6 millimeters in length. What was special about this plantohopper was in its mimicry. Do you see it yet before reading on? … On each of the forewings it has a set of eight eyespots, most noticeably two slightly enlarged in the center of the bottom row with a bright white stripe underneath. Looking more familiar? Rhotana is known to mimic jumping spiders! However, the records of Rhotana I’ve seen all have eyespots on the hindwings as they sit with all four wings spread out, a slightly more convincing mimic from my human perspective. This species, on the other hand, had one jumping spider on each side. I would have been excited to see any mimetic behaviors, but I didn’t make the jumping spider connection until I examined the photos more closely. In fact, it’s likely the upper four eyespots actually resemble dark splotches with contrasting bright patterns on the top of the cephalothorax of some jumpers, and the white stripe a spider moustache. With some imagination I can make out the jumping spider’s legs from the yellow markings. I’ve found some jumping spiders that look somewhat like this, and I’ll follow up with another post.

Photographed after slight disturbance [2]

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