First Jumping Spider Described

Sri Lankan researchers have described the first ever species of jumping spiders from the genus Synagelides that are native to the Indian Ocean island, identifying not one but four of the arachnids.

In a paper published in the journal Zootaxa, they name the new species Synagelides hortonensis, S. lakmalii, S. rosalindae and S. orlandoi — the latter two named after the lovers in William Shakespeare’s popular comedy As You Like It.Entomologist Suresh P. Benjamin, a co-author of the new study, told Earthlanka these are the first species from the genus described from Sri Lanka, and likely not the last. “There is a lot to study in Sri Lanka,” he said.
With more than 6,000 species described worldwide, jumping spiders (family: Salticidae) are the largest known spider family.The recent publication is a part of an ongoing effort to study the endemic arachnids of Sri Lanka, a biodiversity haven best known for its dazzling variety of reptile life. The new discovery brings to 31 the known species of jumping spiders described from Sri Lanka.
“The current initiative aims to place the island’s jumping spiders in a phylogenetic context using different sequencing approaches and advanced bioinformatic pipelines to better understand the evolutionary history of the family,” Benjamin said. Found throughout Asia, Synagelides is an unusual genus of minute, cryptic spiders that live in association with ants, often in soil ecosystems, including leaf litter. This goes for the Sri Lankan spiders too, which the researchers describe as having elongated front legs, possibly for burrowing into leaf litter. They also range from sandy-brown to black in color, “to blend [into] their environments in order to capture prey and defend themselves from predators.”
“Litter spiders are generalist predators and may be ideal bioindicators for ecological changes in soil ecosystems,” they write.
The role of spiders in the ecosystem is unique, Benjamin said.
“They are obligatory predators, preying on other arthropods, mainly insects,” he said. “They are natural control agents for our agricultural pests and help us maintain the balance. Some estimates have suggested that about a 50% crop loss can be expected in the absence of spider populations.”
In Sri Lanka alone, “about 110 new species of spiders have been discovered since 2000, over 90% of them endemic,” Benjamin added