Between 2001 and 2008, Meehan and colleagues studied the spider in its tropical habitat in southeastern Mexico and northwestern Costa Rica. (Get spider facts.)
They observed that the spiders ate nutrient-rich buds that grow on acacia plants.
The acacias are also home to a species of ant that live in the plants’ hollow thorns. In a classic example of mutualism, the ants protect the plant in return for shelter and food, said Meehan, who conducted the research while at Villanova University in Villanova, Pennsylvania.
Yet the fast, stealthy Bagheera has figured out how to leap from thorn to thorn to collect its meal—while avoiding the highly aggressive ants.
Though the spider does occasionally snack on ant larvae, the bulk of their diet is plants, Meehan said.
“It is utterly surreal,” he said, “to see a spider use such effective hunting strategies to hunt a plant.”