Arachnews: March 30, 2020
In this week’s edition: Animal Crossing; another cancelled conference; ballooning, climate change, and evolution; new jumping spiders; and more.
Words in bold are defined in the glossary at the end.
Art & Media
Photos & Videos
- An amazing use of the Laowa probe lens: going inside Pamphobeteus tarantula burrows! [Twitter]
- Remember those stunning photos of a blue-green and orange jumping spider from a few weeks ago? An enterprising Redditor has created lovely glass bead versions. [Reddit]
just for lols
The house spider implies the existence of the dance spider, the trance spider, and the techno spider. Also the junglist spider, which is MASSIVE.
—Alec McQuay, @Ironwrites
The latest instalment of Nintendo’s Animal Crossing series, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, dropped just over a week ago. In this chill, cute game, you build a home on an island while capturing bugs, fish, and other creatures. And one of the creatures you can catch is a tarantula! Brachypelma hamorii, to be specific. People are reacting…normally.
- It’s true. And here’s how to generate your very own infinite tarantula island. [Polygon]
Education, Events, News
- The Animal Behavior Society’s 2020 conference, which was to be held at the end of July at the University of Tennessee, has been cancelled due to the pandemic. [Animal Behavior Society]
- Mygalomorph expert Rebecca Godwin just got a faculty position at Piedmont College, Georgia. [Twitter]
- Javed Ahmed announces a new partnership with Chris Cathrine’s ecology consultancy Caledonian Conservation Ltd. What’s ahead? “New distributional records for Indian spiders. An urban wildlife project. And discovering the invertebrates of a seasonal salt marsh/salt scrub.” [Twitter]
- For Entomology Today, Brigette Brown profiles the citizen science projects tracking the Pennsylvania purse-web spider Atypus snetsingeri. They share valuable advice for scientists who may be considering starting their own citizen science initiatives. [Entomology Today]
- Spiders have a unique way to get around: ballooning. Using silk threads as sails, they can fly on the wind to distant places and establish new populations there. Global wind patterns depend on climate, so as climate changes, where spiders end up will change, too. A group of researchers reconstructed the 30-million-year evolutionary history of Anelosimus cobweb spiders and matched it with what we know about climate changes. They found that Anelosimus spread around the world in a short period when temperatures suddenly increased, and during the past 8 million years of relative cooling, lineages in South America and Madagascar diversified while staying put. An interesting side note is that the social, colony-forming Anelosimus species do not disperse over long distances, only the solitary and sub-social ones. This may mean these rare spiders are more at risk from climate change in the future. [Paper] [Sci‑Hub]
- My girl!!! The furrow spider Larinioides sclopetarius is also known as the “bridge spider” because of its affinity for human-made structures like bridges. Artificial lighting can attract lots of insects at night, but how does it affect the spiders? A bridge in Tours, France with alternating lit and unlit panels provided the perfect site for a recent study. There were fewer spiders in the lit segments, but they were bigger than the ones in unlit segments. They were also able to catch more prey with smaller webs. There’s several possible explanations for this, which you can read in the full, open-access paper. [Paper 🔓️]
Note: The author notes one reason spiders might be rarer in lit sections is that they avoid them out of fear of predators. I have found a site that offers an interesting variant: a public washroom/kiosk covered with back-lit metal screens big enough for insects to get through, but not birds or larger animals. This has created a vast “spider zoo” where enormous L. sclopetarius live in a paradise with no competition but each other. If I were a scientist, I would science the shit out of a building like that. Anyway, just a thought.
- Did you know tiny jumping spiders sometimes wear flies as hats? Lol jk, the flies are kleptoparasites—freeloaders who try to grab bites of other species’ meals. A new Peckhamia paper documents some interesting interactions between tiny kleptoparasitic flies and jumping spiders. The flies have to be careful they don’t end up as dinner themselves! [Paper 🔓️]
- The Annals of the Entomological Society of America has a special issue on genetic analysis of invasive arthropods. One paper describes the different methods that scientists have developed to DNA-test invasive — and increasingly pesticide-resistant — cattle fever ticks (Rhipicephalus microplus) along the Texas-Mexico border. [Paper 🔓️]
- Yes, just last week we had a paper about using entomopathogenic fungi against two-spotted spider mites (Tetranychus urticae), but here’s another one. This study tested four different species of fungi against two-spotted spider mites, with Metarhizium anisopliae coming out on top. The fungi have special enzymes that break down the mites’ exoskeletons, allowing them to get inside and spread infection. [Paper 🔓️]
- A jumping spider from Argentina’s quebrachal forest represents not only a new species but a new genus: Tapsatella albocastanea. [Paper 🔓️]
- A four-year survey of the arachnids of Costa Rica’s Isla del Coco turns up many species, including three new to science: a wandering spider (Spinoctenus ginae), a curtain-web spider (Masteria angienae), and a ground spider (Lygromma nicolae). [Paper 🔓️]
- An updated checklist of the spiders of the Galápagos lists 159 species across 34 families, half of them native to the islands. But their distribution is highly variable: “Interestingly, most of the spider species reported in the Galapagos archipelago occur on only one or two islands, while very few species were recorded on more than 10 islands and no species were found on all of the 17 larger islands.” [Paper] [Sci‑Hub]
- Okay, so there’s a smallish family of spiders, the Caponiidae. One of the oldest genera is Nops (MacLeay 1839), and several other closely related genera are variants on that: Orthonops, Tarsonops, etc. Now, back in 1994 the prominent arachnologist Norman Platnick described a bunch of new caponiid genera in Chile, none of which were closely related to Nops, so he named them…Notnops, Tisentnops, and Taintnops. (In the paper, he says the names are “an arbitrary combination of letters”, which is taxonomist for “tee hee hee”.) Then in 2007 he added Nyetnops.* Now Sánchez-Ruiz et al. have decided one Nyetnops species is different enough to warrant its own genus…which they have named Nopsma. I quote, “The generic name is the equivalent in Latin to the expression ‘there’s no Nops’, analogously constructed as the negative substantives usually employed in the language Ocaina, Witoto linguistic family, still spoken in Peruvian and Colombian Amazonia.” Look, I had to be burdened with this terrible knowledge and now you are too. [Paper] [Sci‑Hub]
* Which is in the same subfamily as Nops, because apparently this is a motherfucking game to you people.
- Was the South American tarantula genus Pseudhapalopus even real? Or was it all a dream? All but the very first Pseudhapalopus species, which is kinda sketchy tbh, have been put in new genera: Cymbiapophysa, for the species with apophyses on their cymbia; and Spinosatibiapalpus, for the species with spinose (spiny) palpal tibiae. Not the most imaginative names, but I guess it’s this or Taintnops. [Paper]
- Three new Psalmopoeus tarantulas from Central America. P. sandersoni is named after Scottish biologist and pioneering cryptozoologist(!) Ivan T. Sanderson, who collected the Official Specimen. I’m sure he would rather have had, like, a species of Mothman named after him instead, but what can you do. [Paper]
- Most kinds of spiders people can name—“jumping spiders”, “wolf spiders”, “orbweavers”, etc.—are families or genera of spiders, comprising many different species. Only the most recognizable and widespread species have their own common names; for example, the European garden spider or cross spider (Araneus diadematus), or the Australian redback (Latrodectus hasselti). A group of enterprising German taxonomists have compiled a list of common names for all the spider species in Germany—many of which they made up themselves. I suspect only German speakers can truly appreciate the nuances here. [Paper 🔓️]
- Over the past few years, arachnologists have been sorting through and classifying spiders collected by the late British arachnologist Eric Duffey and donated to the Manchester Museum. Over 2500 specimens from southern Europe, spanning almost fifty years in time and ranging from Portugal to Cyprus, have been sorted. [Paper]
- A short trip to Albania turned up 45 species of arachnids—mostly spiders, but also harvesters, scorpions, and pseudoscorpions. That includes new crab spider and sac spider species, as well as crevice-weavers found in Albania for the first time. [Paper]
- Is Bulgaria home to “living fossil” spider species that survived the Ice Age in caves? Probably not, argues a new paper. It’s more likely that after the Ice Age, spiders gradually spread to the Balkans from warmer areas. And cave species aren’t necessarily ancient survivors—it takes surprisingly little time for species to evolve into pale, eyeless cave-dwellers. [Paper 🔓️]
- A new paper describes the different life stages of the oribatid mite Damaeolus ornatissimus, found in Romania. “The nymphs of this species…carry the exuvial scalps of previous instars on the gastronotum.” I don’t know what that means, but it sounds gnarly. [Paper]
- A new jumping spider, Dendryphantes alanicus, from North Ossetia-Alania in the Caucasus. [Paper]
- A new jumping spider from Iran, Salticus lucasi, is named after Lucas the Spider, “in recognition of the role that it played in ‘curing’ many arachnophobes around the world”. All we can say is awww. [Paper 🔓️]
- Several new species of funnel-weavers across four new genera (Persiscape, Agelescape, Gorbiscape, and Persilena) from Iran and Tajikistan. The scape is a feature of female spider genitalia. [Paper]
- New and improved anatomical details about the jumping spider Icius alboterminus based on new specimens collected in Gujarat, India. [Paper 🔓️]
- A new desid spider, Desis jiaxiangi, found on the shore of Hainan Island. While not truly aquatic, these spiders live in marine habitats: they “hide in silk sacs between rocks or shells during high tide and forage during low tide”. If you thought of the Bob Marley song, you’re not alone. [Paper]
- Two new mynoglenine sheet-web weavers from Malaysia, belonging to a new genus, Asiafroneta. [Paper 🔓️]
- Some groups of oribatid mites, known as ptyctimous mites or box mites, can fold themselves up into a protective ball like little Transformers. Here’s 33 species across six families that were collected across south and south-east Asia, including two new species. [Paper 🔓️]
- Seven new species of peacock jumping spiders! Mostly from western Australia. They are all stunningly beautiful, but the stand-out is Maratus constellatus, whose markings are reminiscent of Van Gogh’s Starry Night. [Paper]
- apophysis, plural apophyses: sticky-outy bit. An anatomical term used in spider taxonomy.
- cymbium, plural cymbia: the scoop-shaped bit of a mature male spider’s pedipalps; guards the little fiddly bits. Taken from a Latin word for a kind of drinking cup.
- entomopathogenic: causing disease in insects (or other terrestrial arthropods). Cordyceps is probably the most famous entomopathogenic fungus, but there’s thousands like it that you’ve never heard of.
- kleptoparasite: an animal that eats by stealing other animals’ food. Not only are there kleptoparasitic flies that eat spiders’ food, there are kleptoparasitic spiders that eat other spiders’ food. All we need now are kleptoparasitic flies eating kleptoparasitic spiders’ food for a Parasitism Turducken.
- living fossil: an extant (currently living) species that looks very similar to an extinct species. Often (but not always), the fossil is discovered first, and the living animal second. A famous example is the coelacanth fish. An arachnid example would be the liphistiid trapdoor spiders.
- pedipalps or palps: the appendages on either side of an arachnid’s mouthparts; basically, shorter legs highly modified for feeling/grabbing/mating. In mature male spiders, the ends of the pedipalps are highly complex organs used to inseminate female spiders, and every species’ are slightly different.
- scape: a sticky-outy-bit some kinds of female spiders have on their genital openings.
- tibia, plural tibiae: the segment of an arachnid’s leg right below the patella, or knee. You know how I just said pedipalps were basically little legs? Well, pedipalps have tibiae too. Spinosatibiapalpus tarantulas are named for the spines on the tibiae of their pedipalps.