The 'Kans' - A lost world, within the Western Ghats

The ‘Kans’ – A lost world, within the Western Ghats

The 'Kans' - A lost world, within the Western Ghats
The ‘Kans’ – A lost world, within the Western Ghats

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 'Kans' - A lost world, within the Western Ghats
The ‘Kans’ – A lost world, within the Western Ghats

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.

The species:

Paraplectana rajashree - new species from Western Ghats
Paraplectana rajashree – new species from Western Ghats
Paraplectana rajashree (right). showing resemblence to coccinellid beetle (left)
Paraplectana rajashree (right). showing resemblence to coccinellid beetle (left)

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.

Thelcitopis kirankhalapi, new species from Western Ghats
Thelcitopis kirankhalapi, new species from Western Ghats

Rajashree & Kiran Khalap
Rajashree & Kiran Khalap

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 - new species from Western Ghats
Cyrtarachne sunjoymongai – new species from Western Ghats

Sunjoy Monga
Sunjoy Monga

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 Team:

Our arachnology research team
Our arachnology research team

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.

The 'Kans' - A lost world, within the Western Ghats
The ‘Kans’ – A lost world, within the Western Ghats

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
http://indianarachnology.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/ija_2015_v4_n2_p1_1_5.pdf

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
http://indianarachnology.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/ija_2015_v4_n2_p3_10_15.pdf

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
http://indianarachnology.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/ija_2015_v4_n2_p4_16_21.pdf

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
http://www.indianarachnology.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/ija_2015_v4_n1_p10_44_48.pdf

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
http://www.indianarachnology.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/ija_2015_v4_n1_p11_49_55.pdf

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
http://www.indianarachnology.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/ija_2015_v4_n1_p13_59_63.pdf

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.
http://peckhamia.com/peckhamia/PECKHAMIA_132.1.pdf

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.
http://peckhamia.com/peckhamia/PECKHAMIA_129.1.pdf

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.
http://peckhamia.com/peckhamia/PECKHAMIA_125.1.pdf

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