Our team recently described three new species of spiders, from the ‘Kans’ of Central Western Ghats, Shivamogga, Karnataka; specialized niche-ecosystems consisting of evergreen and semi-evergreen vegetation, surrounded by deciduous forest, which results in unique micro-climatic conditions, making them rich pockets of bio-diversity within the Western Ghats, a global bio-diversity hotspot, and UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Traditionally preserved as sacred groves, these fascinating habitats are being rapidly encroached upon, and destroyed by unsustainable development practices.
The discoveries were published in the prestigious ‘The Indian Journal of Arachnology’, the country’s foremost and only peer-reviewed scientific journal solely dedicated to Arachnology, and which publishes novel and significant observations and research on the subject.
Paraplectana rajashree is a rare, dainty red orb-spider whose appearance mimics ladybird beetles. Besides being a new species, this is the first time that this genus has been reported from India. The species was named in honour of Mumbai-based conservationist, birdwatcher and aboriginal dog fancier, Ms. Rajashree Khalap, who is currently studying the birds and biodiversity of Powai Lake and who recently collaborated on and co-authored a seminal paper on the genetics of Asian Village Dogs.
Thelcticopis kirankhalapi is a mid-sized, handsome huntsman spider, elegantly coloured in hues of copper and coffee brown. It has been named in honour of leading brand guru and consultant, expert rock climber and critically-acclaimed author, Kiran Khalap; connoisseur of the arts, life sciences and supporter of conservation initiatives.
Cyrtarachne sunjoymongai is an uncommon, dainty little orb-spider whose appearance mimics a snail; thereby avoiding predation by birds. The species is named in honour of Mr. Sunjoy Monga, honorary wildlife warden, Mumbai suburbs; perhaps the country’s finest ornithologist and natural historian.
The research team is led by Mumbai city based Naturalist and Arachnologist, Javed Ahmed (top right), currently pursuing a Masters Degree in Environmental Science; and includes Sumukha J. N (bottom left), an electronics engineer who’s also a keen naturalist and photographer; Ms. Rajashree Khalap, conservationist, birder and landrace dog fancier; Bhushan Jadhav (top left), wildlife photographer and Lepidopterist; and me, Dr. Krishna Mohan (bottom right), surgeon, environmentalist and wildlife photographer.
Beyond species discoveries – Observing behaviour and natural history:
India remains largely unexplored in terms of its spider-fauna. The vast majority of Indian spiders remain understudied, and many species await discovery. Because spiders are so poorly studied, local distribution records are almost non-existent. Even basic life histories and behaviour of some of our commonest spiders remains unknown.
For instance, our observations on the semi-coppered heavy jumper, a relatively common jumping spider, which was documented for the first time, in the Mumbai region, reveals that the species spins a small silken tent, which it rests in and returns to, night after night. This was the first time such a behaviour was observed and documented in this species.
We also discovered the rare jumping spider, Portia albimana, a new record for the state of Maharashtra, and found that it utilizes the funnel-webs of two different wolf spider species, as a convenient night time retreat.
Collaborating with like-minded arachnologists from different countries, has also led to exciting results.
When I observed and photographed the common housefly catcher; a very common species of jumping spider, stalking and hunting down a twin-tailed spider, a fearsome hunter in its own right, I had no idea that the behaviour was unrecorded in the species!
We discussed it with Singapore-based spider expert Nicky Bay, perhaps the world’s finest macro-photographer, and found he had photographed the same behaviour in Cambodia. He generously lent us his photograph for the paper, which was co-authored by US-based expert, Dr. David E. Hill, one of the world’s leading authority on Jumping Spiders, and was published in the prestigious ‘Peckhamia’, the only peer-reviewed scientific journal in the world dedicated to jumping spiders.
Our team has made it a mission to contribute toward a better understanding of these fascinating organisms.
Here are the list of papers published during Year 2015 by our team
Javed Ahmed; Sumukha J N; Rajashree Khalap;Krishna Mohan and Bhushan Jadhav. 2015. First record of the spider genus Paraplectana Brito Capello, 1867 from India, with a description of a new species. (Araneae: Araneidae: Cyrtarachninae) Indian Journal of Arachnology Volume-4(2): 1-5
Javed Ahmed; Sumukha J N; Rajashree Khalap; Krishna Mohan and Bhushan Jadhav. 2015. A new species of Thelcticopis Karsch, 1884 (Araneae: Sparassidae: Sparianthinae) from the ‘Kans’ of Karnataka, India. Indian Journal of Arachnology Volume-4(2): 10-15
Javed Ahmed; Sumukha J N,; Rajashree Khalap; Krishna Mohan and Bhushan Jadhav. 2015. A new species of Cyrtarachne, Thorell, 1868 (Araneae: Araneidae: Cyrtarachninae) from the sacred grove forests of central Western Ghats, India. Indian Journal of Arachnology Volume-4(2): 16-21
Yogendra Satam, J. Ahmed, R. Khalap and K. Mohan. 2015. Microhabitat utilization in juvenile Deinopis MacLeay, 1839 (Araneae: Deinopidae). Indian Journal of Arachnology Volume-4(1): 44-48
Javed Ahmed, Y. Satam, R. Khalap and K. Mohan. 2015. A new species of tree dwelling Peucetia Thorell, 1869 from Mumbai, India (Araneae: Oxyopidae). Indian Journal of Arachnology Volume-4(1): 49-55
Javed Ahmed, Y. Satam, R. Khalap and K. Mohan. 2015. A new species of Dictis L. Koch, 1872 (Araneae: Scytodidae) from Mumbai, India. Indian Journal of Arachnology Volume-4(1):59-63
Ahmed, J., K. Mohan, R. Khalap and D. E. Hill. 2015. Araneophagic behavior in Plexippus petersi (Karsch 1878) (Araneae: Salticidae: Plexippoida: Plexippinae). Peckhamia 132.1: 1-4.
Ahmed, J., Y. Satam, R. Khalap and K. Mohan. 2015. First record of Portia albimana (Simon, 1900) from Maharashtra, Mumbai (Araneae: Salticidae: Spartaeinae). Peckhamia 129.1: 1-6.
Ahmed, J. and Y. Satam. 2015. The structure and utilization of silk constructs by Hyllus semicupreus (Simon, 1885) (Araneae: Salticidae). Peckhamia 125.1: 1-3.