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Spiders in Borneo: Breaking News!

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Breaking News: EDY FOUND A HISPO TODAY! Sorry for shouting, but this is big news. Recall my post dreaming about the special jumping spiders we might find? I neglected to mention Hispo. It was such an unlikely prize that I hadn’t dared to dream it. Most species of Hispo are from Madagascar. There are only two species known outside Africa and the Seychelles — one from India, and one from Sumatra. The species from Sumatra is known from a single immature specimen. The adult female Edy found is therefore the first adult Hispo found east of India. Here is the beast:

A female hisponine jumping spider, the first adult specimen known east of India

A female hisponine jumping spider, the first adult specimen known east of India

And, Hispo is not just any jumping spider. It’s a member of the subfamily Hisponinae, which split off on the jumping spider evolutionary tree long ago, before the burst of diversification that gave us most of the species alive today. Thus, in some features hisponines are more like the ancestral jumping spider than like the familiar jumping spiders. In fact, they are the only living jumping spider group recognizable in the Baltic amber fossils, more than 40 million years old. And so, to make my excitement clearer, I’ll restate: this specimen is the only adult known east of India of this very strange and old group, the hisponines, and on top of that it’s almost certainly a species new to science.

We had been accumulating samples day by day of dozens of species of salticid spiders, collecting in a regimented way from tree trunks, leaf litter, and foliage. We’ve found many interesting species, probably many of which are new to science. I’ll give you an overview of what we’ve been finding in a future post. Despite all these salticid riches, none has made my jaw drop until today. When Edy showed it to me, asking what it was, I looked at it with my hand lens. I realized quickly it might be a Hispo, but I said: “Here, take it back, because I need to finish what I’m doing, and if I look more closely and confirm it’s a Hispo, I’ll stop caring about what I’m doing and it won’t get done”. I finished my task, then confirmed it was a Hispo, and the celebration began. We’re having ice cream tonight in honor of the find.

Previously in this series:

Spiders in Borneo: Introduction
Spiders in Borneo: Undiscovered biodiversity
Spiders in Borneo: The guests of honor: Salticidae
Spiders in Borneo: Team Salticid
Spiders in Borneo: Mulu National Park
Spiders in Borneo: Dreaming about salticid spiders
Spiders in Borneo: Jumping spiders in the forest
Spiders in Borneo: Beating around the bushes
Spiders in Borneo: Spiders in leaf litter
Spiders in Borneo: A Vertical Life
Spiders in Borneo: Leeches and eyeballs

Text and images © W. Maddison, under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license (CC-BY)

Wayne Maddison About the Author: Wayne Maddison is a biologist who studies the diversity and evolution of jumping spiders. When he was thirteen years old in Canada, a big jumping spider looked up at him with her big dark eyes, and he's been hooked ever since. Jumping spiders hunt like cats, creeping and pouncing, and the males perform amazing dances to females. His fascination with the many species of jumping spiders led to an interest in their evolutionary relationships, and then to methods for analyzing evolutionary history. He received a PhD from Harvard University. He is now a Professor at the University of British Columbia, and the Scientific Director of the Beaty Biodiversity Museum. He has taken it as his mission to travel to poorly known rainforests to document the many still-unknown species before they are gone, and to study them and preserve them in museums for future generations.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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