Another Tuesday at the Opal Natural Area…it has been the Year of the Spider for me, with more arachnids leaping before the lens than insects. Last Tuesday I found a stunning jumper, hopping rapidly across the sand. It was as small (about 5mm) as the little Habronattus I had seen at the beginning of the month, but what stood out even from my birds-eye view, were the flashes of red as it made its way through the scrub. It was only when I got closer to it that I could see the striking red palps and the red fringe of hairs on the two pairs of forelegs. As I struggled to photograph this speed demon, I could also see flashes of metallic blue on the face. At home, and on the computer monitor, I could also see the pale blue ‘mustache’ and the striking green eyes. This Salticid was quick to identify as Habronattus americanus (Keyserling 1885): not rare, but it left me feeling like a kid after a visit to the proverbial candy shop…
Myrmekiaphila tigris is a new species of trap door spider. They are ‘sit and wait’ predators that live in web lined burrows covered with a hinged silk and soil lid. Trip lines radiate out from the burrow, so when the spider senses vibrations on the lines it can rush out to grab its prey and pull it pack into the burrow.
Determining the species of many spiders cannot always be seen by the general appearance. In this case, as with many other spiders, the difference lies in the shape of the male’s palp, the organ used by spiders to transfer sperm to the female’s epigyne.
See more in the Open Access† paper at Zookeys:
Bond J, Hamilton C, Garrison N, Ray C (2012) Phylogenetic reconsideration of Myrmekiaphilasystematics with a description of the new trapdoor spider species Myrmekiaphila tigris (Araneae, Mygalomorphae, Cyrtaucheniidae, Euctenizinae) from Auburn, Alabama. ZooKeys 190: 95-109. doi: 10.3897/zookeys.190.3011
†(C) 2012 Jason E. Bond. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License 3.0 (CC-BY), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
In the Garden
While many ponder if they should be planting their runty annual seedlings for fear of frost, many perennial gardeners have already been enjoying the fruits of their labour. In our garden in the last week,, the native marsh marigolds (Caltha palustris) and the not-so-native European Pasque Flowers (Pulsatilla vulgaris) were knocking our socks off, blooming lusciously even before this tardy gardener has all his garden clean-up done.