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