In what could be a shot in the arm for the ‘greens’ who are against the proposed ‘green field airport’ at Aranmula, arachnologists of the Biodiversity Research Institute of Irinjalakkuda Christ College have discovered three new species of spiders and eight rare species of spiders on the proposed airport site in Pathanamthitta district, throwing light on the environmental diversity of the ecologically-sensitive area.
A research team led by Dr Sudhikumar A V, an arachnologist in the Zoology department of Christ College, Irinjalakkuda, has also found about 45 different species of spiders during a month-long study at the proposed site.
According to Sudhikumar, among the spiders spotted at the site, four spiders - Genus Cybaeus of Cybaeidae family, Genus Micromata of Sparassidae family, Genus Orthobula of Corinnidae family and Genus Neoscona of Araneidae family- have been spotted for the first time in India. The details of the discovery and characteristics of the newly-found spiders will be presented at an international conference on spider research scheduled to be held in Italy in July, he said.
The Cybaeus variety, which generally nest in the dried leaves of plants, are considered nocturnal and this is first time that spiders of this variety have been spotted in India, while the green coloured Micromata prey upon insects by hiding in the green leaves of plants.
Since the colour of the leaves and that of the spiders is identical, it is very difficult to distinguish them from the leaves. Until now, around seven species of this family have been spotted in European countries. But this is the first time the rare species has been discovered in India, says Dr Sudhikumar.
Orthobula is another new species found in the ecologically-sensitive area. This species commonly resides on fallen leaves on the ground is also considered nocturnal. Their main food consists of ants.
Eight other rare species of spiders have also been spotted by the team in various parts of the state, the members said. The significant point is that spotting such a wide variety of rare species from a single area in such a short span of time showcases the diversity and ecological wealth of the area, Sudhikumar said.
The research team had earlier spotted a rare species of spider, Cryptothela, which was seen after nearly a century, in the forest around Thommankuth waterfalls near Thodupuzha in Idukki. British arachnologist Reginald Innes Pocock was the first to discover the Cryptothela variety in 1890 in the forests of Kodaikanal in Tamil Nadu.