What a great site! And so many knowledgeable experts wading in. Last month (November 2007) I photographed the spider in the attached photo along the Pipeline Road, Panama. The "stalk" it is sitting on is about the size of my index finger, so it is fairly large. We have spiders in Michigan that ambush prey on goldenrod and asters, but they’re much smaller and shaped quite differently. Any ideas? Thanks!
The spider from Michigan you mentioned is the a Crab Spider, Misumena vatia, also known as a Flower Spider or Goldenrod Spider. We agree that this gorgeous Panamanian species is in the same family, Thomisidae. We will try to properly identify the exact species, but that might be difficult. Right now we will post your letter and image in the hopes that someone can identify the species. Meanwhile, we really need to plant our sugar snap peas and prepare for Christmas Eve dinner.
Thanks very much! Yes, I am familiar with Misumena vatia, as well as Misumenops asperatus, which both occur in Michigan (and I have photos of both). The abdomen of this Panamanian spider also reminds me of our Micrathena gracilis and M. sagittata, but they are smaller and in the orbweaver family (Araneidae), definitely not related. I have many photos on my website, including a lot of insects but so far it is mainly butterflies, dragonflies, and beetles. I haven’t found time yet to put up any of my spiders and other insects.
Michigan HummerNet: http://www.amazilia.net/MIHummerNet
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This is Thomisidae, Epicadus heterogaster.