26 August 2010

Not-so incy wincy spider

Cor Vink, adjunct curator of spiders at the Entomology Research Museum, Lincoln University and research scientist at AgResearch, has recently published a taxonomic revision of the New Zealand Pisauridae (nurseryweb spiders) with his colleague Nadine Dupérré (American Museum of Natural History) – Vink CJ, Dupérré N (2010) Pisauridae (Arachnida: Araneae). Fauna of New Zealand 64: 1-60. A taxonomic revision takes a good look at what we know about species in a particular group as well as any new species that have been discovered since the last major look. The Fauna of New Zealand series will eventually aim to cover all of the species found there. Cor is New Zealand's leading arachnologist and has discovered many new species of spider. Nadine is a talented drawer of spiders and you can see some of her work in the latest Angelina Jolie movie Salt (one of the characters is an arachnologist).

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Nurseryweb spiders are easily recognised in New Zealand by the nurseryweb that the female builds around the eggsac, which serves to protect the newly emerged spiderlings. New Zealand nurseryweb spiders do not build a web for prey capture and are sit-and-wait predators. Four closely related species of nurseryweb spiders are found in New Zealand; three on the mainland and one on the Chatham Islands. All species are endemic to New Zealand and are likely to be related to Australian species. The most common species is Dolomedes minor, which is found throughout New Zealand in scrubland, grassland, swamps, and marshes. Dolomedes aquaticus is found in open riverbeds and stony lakeshores throughout the South Island and in the southern half of the North Island. Another species, Dolomedes dondalei is found in shaded riverbeds throughout mainland New Zealand. The Chatham Islands species, Dolomedes schauinslandi, is known from only three islands (South East, Mangere, and Houruakopara Islands) and is nationally endangered due to its restricted range. Molecular evidence of interbreeding between two common mainland species, D. minor and D. aquaticus, was also discovered and this is being investigated further by B.Sc. honours student Vanessa Lattimore.


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