National Geographic Explorer Jonathan Kolby was in the jungle in Honduras researching amphibians when he spotted a spider with a spectacular rear end. The spider (Micrathena sagittata) is red, except for an abdomen that resembles the head of the Pokémon character Pikachu. It's not a rare species, just tiny and hard to spot even if you're looking for them. But why the coloring that acts like a safety vest? A 2002 experiment on similarly colored spider in Australia hints that standing out actually attracts prey.
Using a black marker, the researchers "erased" the spiders' bright yellow color. The spiders whose colors had been thus muted were on average less successful at catching prey. Like arrow-shaped micrathenas, the Australian spiders are "sit-and-wait" predators that ensnare prey in large webs.
Maybe when insects see this, they don't think "Pikachu" as much as they think "flower." Read more about the PIkachu spider at National Geographic News.
(Image credit: Jonathan Kolby)