Any of us who seeks to explore biodiversity in poorly known areas brings with us our field clothes, our collecting equipment, and our dreams of what we might find. Yes, we hope to find something special. But what?
Coming to Borneo, I dream of these jumping spiders: Depreissia, a bizarre ant-like beast that may occupy an important place in the salticid evolutionary tree. Eupoa, a tiny salticid that does indeed have a special place in the evolutionary tree, but we need more specimens to figure out exactly where. Mantisatta, a long narrow spider looking like a blade of grass. Onomastus, a translucent ghost of a salticid.
Now, in these brief descriptions I don't explain fully why these would be so cool to find. If you were a jumping spider geek you'd nod your head and know why I am excited about the possibility of seeing them. If we do find them, I'll be sure to tell you all about them.
Then there's the possibility of finding something that's so new I can't even anticipate it. I don't lay awake at night thinking about this, but I do daydream.
But I don't want to leave you with the impression that the other spiders are disappointing. In our first few days here at Mulu we have seen many species. Not only will the specimens provide important information to us, but some may represent species new to science, and all are beautiful to look at. Here are a few we've found.
The first is the slightly scary looking Epeus, a male with great big eyes, and a red tuft of hairs on the top of its head:
Next is a female Epeus, possibly the same species as the male, but she is a delicate gold:
Finally, a strange jumping spider, Myrmarachne, that looks like an ant. This is a male. Sticking out from the front of his face are his hugely enlarged jaws, the tips of which are swollen into bulbs. When he's walking around, those bulbs look just like an ant's head:
Sometimes I can hardly believe the creatures that are on Earth.
Previously in this series:
Text and images © W. Maddison, under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license (CC-BY)