Thursday, April 12, 2012

New species of spider found in Sarawak

KUCHING: Canadian biologist and jumping spider specialist Dr Wayne Maddison believes that his team has found a new species of spider from the hispo genus in Sarawak.

Speaking at a public awareness talk on jumping spider diversity in Sarawak at Sarawak Biodiversity Centre (SBC) yesterday, he said hispo spiders are commonly found in Madagascar.

“There are three known species found outside of Africa, until now. As far as I know, this one is new to science. It is the first of this subfamily in Borneo.”

Maddison’s student and team member Edyta Piascik found the first one, a grey adult female, on a tree in Mulu. They later found an adult male in Lambir.

According to Maddison, they still have to study their specimen in detail when they return to Vancouver.

Both Maddison and Piascik gave talk to about 35 people from various organisations and members of the public.

Maddison is a professor at the University of British Columbia and is scientific director of Beaty Biodiversity Museum.

His fascination with jumping spiders began when he was 13, and he has made it his mission to travel to poorly-known rainforests to document the many still-unknown species before they are gone.

While the term ‘jumping spiders’ may conjure up images of big hungry spiders waiting for an excuse to pounce on you, Maddison said that these tiny creatures are commonly found around the house and garden.

“I found six different species around this building while I was waiting for my turn to talk,” he told his audience.

Jumping spiders are identified by their characteristic eye pattern — four of their larger eyes are in front of their heads, while four smaller ones are positioned on the sides to give them what is equivalent to the human peripheral vision.

Maddison said some of these spiders might have blind spots directly behind their heads.

“You can tell these by the sudden head jerk they make when they detect something behind them,” he said. “Their visual system is better than a cat’s, but not as good as a dog’s.”

Fewer than 100 jumping spiders of Borneo were previously found and described, some from as long as 120 years ago.

“We found an estimated 175 species on our trip,” Maddison said, adding that there may be at least 400 species in the whole of Borneo.

Jumping spiders do not spin webs to trap their food, he said. Instead, the mostly carnivorous spiders hunt like cats, pouncing on their prey.

“They do produce silk. They use it to spin houses, and to attach to something in case they miss what they were jumping at!”

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: New species of spider found in Sarawak

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