Reading my previous posts about spiders we've found, you might wonder why I seem uncertain whether a spider we find is new to science. Why don't we just get out our trusty Field Guide to the Jumping Spiders of Borneo? Sorry, nothing like that exists. And, even after we get the spiders back to the lab, with our good microscopes, it still won't be easy to figure out if they are new. In the technical scientific literature there has never been a compilation that describes the known jumping spiders of Borneo. What we have are scattered articles published over the last centuries, each reporting on a few species found. Usually there are so few details published that the only way to confirm an identification is to compare your specimens to those specimens, archived in museums, that were described in the publications.

It might be a lot of work to figure out if something we find in Borneo is new. However, it's not as bad as it might be. Back in 1997, Polish arachnologist Jerzy Proszynski realized that if we had a compilation of all of the drawings and photographs from hundreds of publications, we could much more easily identify our jumping spiders. He set about building this compilation, a "diagnostic drawings library", and put it on the internet (see here, as well as an older, but perhaps easier to use version here). It has become an indispensable resource for those of us working with jumping spiders. This goes to show that not all important collective projects on the internet are invented by the young: Professor Proszynski was 62 years old in 1997, and yet he could see that the World Wide Web, then fairly new, was the future.

Proszynski's compilation doesn't include good drawings of all known species, because for many species no good drawings have been published by any author, ever. Eventually we will have full descriptions and genetic data for jumping spiders compiled and available in databases and online. In the meantime, we have the scattered literature, Proszynski's compilation, and the museum collections. Most urgently, we need to get out into the field to find the spiders before they disappear.


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

Spiders in Borneo: Breaking News!

Spiders in Borneo: Falling from above

Spiders in Borneo: What I carry

Spiders in Borneo: Entangled and pierced

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