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Seven new species of ‘jumping spiders’ found

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Seven new species belonging to the family of jumping spiders (family Salticidae) have been discovered in a recent research conducted by Research Prof. Suresh P. Benjamin and Researcher Dilini Bopearachchi of the National Institute of Fundamental Studies in Kandy.

The seven new species have been discovered during a study on the genus “Flacillula” of the jumping spider family.

The Research Paper titled “Phylogenetic placement of Flacillula strand, 1932 with seven new species from Sri Lanka”, co-authored by Prof. Benjamin and Bopearachchi, was published in the Journal of Zoological Systematics and Evolutionary Research last year.

“Jumping spiders are a highly diverse family of 658 described genera and over 6,343 described species. They are also the most species-rich lineage of spiders in Sri Lanka. Salticidae species are small- to large-sized, diurnal hunters that grab their prey using their chelicerae and front pair of legs,” the research paper explained.

Jumping spiders have eight eyes.Two big eyes, right in the centre of the spider’s forehead and three more pairs around it. They have terrific eyesight.

Flacillula Strand stands for specimens collected in Sri Lanka. The seven new species have been named “Flacillula dothalugala sp. nov., Flacillula ellaensis sp. nov., Flacillula henryi sp. nov., Flacillula hodgsoni sp. nov., Flacillula johnstoni sp. nov., Flacillula naipauli sp. nov., and Flacillula piyasenai sp. nov”.

Two of them, “F. dothalugala” and “F. ellaensis”, are named after the locality they were found, Dothalugala in the Knuckles Mountain Range, and the Passara Ella road. “F. piyasenai” has been been named after co-author Bopearachchi’s father, Piyasena Bopearachchi.

“F. naipauli” has been named to honour the late British author V.S. Naipaul, winner of the 2001 Nobel Prize in Literature. “F. henryi” is to honour the memory of the late George Morrison Reid Henry, a former curator of systematic entomology at Colombo Museum. “F. hodgsoni” is to honour the late Brian Houghton Hodgson, a pioneering naturalist and ethnologist who worked in India and Nepal. “F. johnstoni” is in honour of Sir Alexander Johnston (1775–1849) a chief Justice of Ceylon and a founding member of the Royal Asiatic Society. During his service in Ceylon, he introduced a range of administrative reforms in Sri Lanka, introducing numerous liberal ideas and supporting the rights of locals.

“The specimens of the new species are currently in the National Institute of Fundamental Studies (NIFS) and will be deposited in the National Museum, Colombo,” the research paper noted.

“The newly described species might be endangered due to their small population size and restricted distribution in high-altitude cloud forest. All new species described here are known from relatively few individuals and are restricted to mid and high-altitude cloud forest (900–1800 m) in the Central Province of Sri Lanka. Most known localities are within protected areas,” the research article stated.

“Sri Lanka’s biodiversity is increasingly threatened by human activities, such as intrusion and disturbance of remnant mountain forest, cultivation of European vegetable varieties, poaching and collection of forest products, climate change and severe weather, biological invasions and modification of forests for hydropower generation.

“Less than 5 percent of Sri Lanka’s original cloud forest remains. Both the Morningside section and the Sinharaja Forest Reserve proper are increasingly threatened by human activities. The Knuckles conservation area and Sinharaja Forest Reserve are designated biosphere reserves and world heritage sites. However, these designations have not bestowed much protection on them” it added.

The study was funded by the National Research Council and additional funds had come from the National Institute of Fundamental Studies, Kandy.

Monday, January 24, 2022 – 01:02

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