Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Mystery spider

For the second time in recent years I have swung my torch around to reveal a brightly coloured spider sitting in a tree and knew that I was looking at something very unusual.

In 2006 it was the Tiger Huntsman which turned out to be the first recorded specimen of an undescribed species in the genus Typostola - it is still awaiting description. The fact that you can still find species that are new to science is one of the very exciting aspects of the wet tropics.

This time however, the spider may not be one that is undescribed, but one that is not well documented in Australia. Its movement and body form are clearly that of a crab spider; family Thomisidae. After some sleuth work I have managed to tentatively identify it as Platythomisus sp.. Around 20 species are recorded from Africa, through southern Asia, but apparently not in Australia.

The obvious question beckons: Is this an Australian species or is it an introduced specimen? The plot thickens further as I found this specimen peeking out of a curled leaf whilst incubating eggs.

I will endeavour to contact an arachnologist who has experience with Australian Thomisids to answer this one. Stay tuned!

The specimen is quite large compared with the majority of Australian Thomisids. Body length 14mm.
The markings on this specimen are quite stunning and are very similar to Platythomisus spp. found throughout Asia. It does have distinct differences though.
For a small spider it is quite aggressive and actually tried to bite my finger whilst I was taking these photographs.

One of the first things that struck me was the superficial resemblance to the spitting spiders Scytodes. Interestingly, one species of Platythomisus has been named P.scytodimorphus

1 comment:

  1. you are lucky your sister-in-law wasn't there, or it would now be extinct