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Termites are common prey to many arthropod species. The abundance of termites in the natural environment has provided many arthropod species with a neverending source of sustenance. Many arthropod species that prey on termites also prey on other families of insects. It is very rare to encounter an arthropod species that preys upon one single group of insects. Furthermore, the existence of any animal species that feeds solely on one particular type of prey species is unheard of in nature. Predators that focus their energies on capturing certain closely related groups of animal species are referred to as “stenophagous specialists”. A predator that limits its diet to one single animal species is known as a “monophagous” predator. Experts have long assumed that no true monophagous predator species can be found in nature, but researchers believe that one particular family of arachnids fits the bill. The family of arachnids know as Ammoxenidae are now believed to prey upon one particular species of termite.

 

Researchers have recently conducted a study that is the first in history to demonstrate the existence of a monophagous predator species. This study showed how a spider species named Ammoxenus amphalodes hunts only termites of the species Hodotermes mossambicus. Researchers taking part in the study exposed the spiders to various species of termites in order to assess their feeding requirements. The study showed that thirty two female spiders of the A. amphalodes species readily accepted H. mossambicus termites as food, but they rejected all other types of termite species. In fact, the spiders did not even bother to emerge from their soil habitat in order to judge alternative termite species as potential food sources. However, when H. mossambicus termites were offered to the spiders as food, the spiders did not waste any time attacking their only form of termite prey. Although this study shows that a monophagous predator exists within nature in the form of a spider that hunts one particular termite species, experts are still not sure how these specialized predators track down a sufficient amount of H. mossambicus termite species for food. Some experts believe that the spiders track the termites via the pheromone trails left by termites.

 

Do you think that there are more spider species in existence that are specialized to feed on one particular type of termite species?

 

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