KOCHI: The research team at the Arachnology Division of Sacred Heart College, Thevara, here reported four new species of spiders in a study conducted in the Western Ghats of the state.
The study, which has brought national and international recognition, was done under the initiative of P A Sebastian, Head of Arachnology Division, together with M J Mathew, Jobi Malamel and M S Pradeep.
Among these, three species comes under genus Hermippus of the family Zodariidae with nickname ‘ant eating spiders’.
Even though they look similar at a quick glance, there are marked differences when observed closely. Most Zodariids are ant mimics and stay close to ant nests waiting to prey on them.
Soon after they take an ant into their custody, they present the prey towards the other ants approaching the spider and the group of ant returns as if it were another ant carrying a dead away from the nest. These new Hermippus species are named Hermippus globosus, Hermippus inflexus and Hermippus gavi respectively in accordance with their structural peculiarities.
The study observes that the ‘wolf spider’ of the genus Lysania of the family Lycosidae is an interesting one because they are alert hunters chasing the prey and pouncing over it like a wolf. Most wolf spiders are seen in gardens, the leaf litter of woodland and forest and making burrows to stay there.
A trapdoor is made before the burrow and waits behind it for capturing the prey.
The new Lysania species has been given the name Lysania prolixus and this is the first time the Lysania Genus is recorded from India. These new findings have been published in the international Journal ‘Zootaxa’ published from New Zealand.
The researchers say the scientific world questions the occurrence of the ‘ant eating spiders’ in Indian subcontinent since they originated in Africa. The new hypothesis (Omman-Kohistan - Dras Island Arc hypothesis) put forward by the Sacred Heart College team explaining the occurrence of ‘ant eating spiders’ in Indian subcontinent has made a mark in the international scene.
The ant eating spiders have migrated to India through a group of islands which connects the African and Indian subcontinent and they sustained facing mass extinction and got spread over the Indian subcontinent.
The new hypothesis is a landmark for all the phenomena that occurred during evolutionary period and really challenging to all the existing theories regarding the occurrence of the particular spiders in India, says P A Sebastian.