Wildlife & Biodiversity

Six new spider species discovered in the Western Ghats

One of the species identified is closely related to the notorious 'black widow' spider

By Rajeshwari Ganesan
Published: Tuesday 28 July 2015

Researchers have found six new species of spiders in the Western Ghats in Kerala in the past month. The species were spotted at Harithavanam on the banks of the Periyar, about 50 kilometres from Kochi.

The team of researchers from the Biodiversity Research Centre in Christ College, Irinjalakuda, Kerala, say they expect to find many more.

"In the past 18 months, we have discovered 19 new species in the Western Ghats and there could be many more. The biodiversity of the region is very vast. Earlier, in February 2014, we had spotted three new species of spiders at the site of the proposed Aranmula airport project and, more recently, eight other new species were found in Parambikulam Tiger Reserve. The six latest species spotted in Harithavanam could be endemic to the Western Ghats,” says A V Sudhikumar, assistant professor of zoology at Christ College and principal investigator of the research.

The new spiders are yet to be named and none of them are venomous to human beings, he adds. They include two species from genus Tetragntha, one each from genus Trachelas, Dendrolycosa, Argyrodes and Chrysso.

The spiders belonging to the genus Argyrodes are from the same spider family—Theridiidae—as the famous "black widow" spider, the female of which are known to sometimes kill and eat their mates after mating.

"The one under the genus Argyrodes is nearly the size of a housefly and lives in an irregular web weaved in between green leaves. One of the species discovered under the genus Tetragntha is a yellow-colored spider that has long jaws and can be easily identified due to four prominent black spots on the back of their abdomen and black bands on the joints of legs," describes Sudhikumar.

The team is adding the details of the new species to the "Encyclopedia of Life" published by the American Museum of Natural History

"The species are new to science. They have not been discovered in any other part of the world yet and this has been confirmed by famous arachnologists Norman I Platnick and Jonathan A Coddington, to whom I had written as soon as we discovered the species," says Sudhikumar.

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