Mumbai researcher rediscovers female of a jumping spider species 139 years after discovery of male

Jun 30, 2018, 15:49 IST | Ranjeet Jadhav

Mumbai researcher calls for better conservation of the forest to protect these creatures and other biodiversity

Mumbai researcher rediscovers female of a jumping spider species 139 years after discovery of male
Chrysilla volupe female

Amid worry over the threat of unplanned development and illegal encroachment hanging over Aarey forest, there are always a few happy surprises in store for researchers, thanks to the rich biodiversity of the area. Mumbai-based researcher Rajesh Sanap has rediscovered the female of a spider species in the area and got a scientific paper, written in collaboration with researcher John T D Caleb, mentioning it published in a leading international journal — Arthropoda Selecta from Russia — on June 26. The female of chrysilla volupe species was discovered in Aarey Colony 139 years after the male was found and described.

The female perspective
Speaking to mid-day, Sanap said, "Aarey Milk Colony keeps surprising us... the latest is the rediscovery of the colourful female jumping spider. Aarey acts as a buffer zone to Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) and has a biodiversity similar to that of SGNP; so, the need of the hour is to protect the forest from unplanned development and encroachment eating into the green cover."

Chrysilla volupe male. Pics/Rajesh Sanap
Chrysilla volupe male. Pics/Rajesh Sanap

The jumping spider family (Salticidae) is the most diverse one, with their world fauna consisting of 6,080 described species — diverse tiny creatures that can be easily recognised by their large anterior median eyes. These diurnal hunters possess brilliant vision and swift reflexes."The species has remained known only from the males for 139 years... The females have remained elusive. In the recent research paper, the female of C. volupe has been described along with its corresponding male based on fresh material, collected from different locations across India. The most interesting part of this study is the focus on the initial developmental stages of the eggs and the first instar [a phase between two periods of moulting in the development of an insect larva or other invertebrate animal] of the species, which have been observed for the first time."

Need for conservation
Aarey is also home to other enigmatic jumping spiders, such as Langelurillus onyx and Langelurillus lacteus, both described in 2017. Piranthus decorus was recorded for the first time in 122 years from the same location. According to researchers, little is known about the spider diversity of India, and there is no biological data available on these organisms. "This lacuna may be filled by more extensive eco-biological studies focusing on this group. The recent discovery and two new records add to the pressing need for conservation of this particular region, which may harbour many more undiscovered life forms," said Caleb.

6,080
Number of described species in the jumping spiders group

Why spiders are important
Spiders are microhabitat specialists and sensitive to sudden changes in their habitat, which makes them ideal indicators of ecosystem function.

They are an integral component of the food web and control insect populations. The smallest change in environment leads to a great decline in spider population, sometime even causing complete loss. The team that made the discovery comprised Sanap, Caleb, Kaushal G Patel, Puthoor Pattammal Sudhin, Karunnappilli S Nafin and Ambalaparambil Vasu Sudhikumar.

Unearthed in Aarey
New species discoveries
2017: Two new jumping spiders Langelurillus lacteus and Langelurillus onyx published in Zootaxa
2014: New species of tarantula Hetrophrictus aareyensis published in PLOS One
2012: New trapdoor spider Idiops rubrolimbatus in The Journal of Arachnology

Rediscoveries
2017: Jumping spider species Piranthus decorus, rediscovered after 122 years, published in Acta Arachnologica
2013: Tarantula species Pleasiphrictus millardi, rediscovered after 100 years, published in Taprobanica
2012: Trapdoor spider species Idiops bombayensis, rediscovered after 110 years, in The Journal of Arachnology
2011: A robust trapdoor tarantula species Haploclastus validus, rediscovered after 110 years, in Journal of Threatened Taxa

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