Researchers recently spotted 101 species of spiders belonging to 65 genera from Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary in Idukki, Kerala, when documenting spider diversity in the Sanctuary. The spider population from the sanctuary accounted for 6.98 per cent of the Indian spider species.
Lycosidae, better known as wolf spiders and with excellent eyesight and agile movements, were the dominant species in the sanctuary. The researchers encountered multiple web cast in the sanctuary and spotted as many as 10 species of Araneidae. These orb-weaver spiders cast their carefully knitted web in gardens, fields, and forests and wait for the prey to walk in. The documentation, which was carried out by C.K. Adarsh and P.O Nameer of the Centre for Wildlife Sciences of the College of Forestry, Kerala Agricultural University, Kerala, was published in the Journal of Threatened Taxa.
The spiders were surveyed in bushes, tree trunks, ferns, forest floor, foliage and grasslands and were handpicked for documentation.
Two endemic genera of Indian spiders — Annandaliella and Neoheterophrictus — were identified during the study. Also, seven feeding guilds of spiders namely orb-weavers, stalkers, ground runners, foliage runners, sheet-web builders, space-web builders, and ambushers were identified. The report of Latrodectus hasselti from Chinnar is the first record of the species from Kerala. There are only very few reports on the occurrence of L. hasselti in other parts of India.
Spiders perform important ecological services by functioning as predators in nature. They feed on other insects and even small vertebrates. The loss of spiders could lead to ecosystem imbalances. Little has been understood about the spiders of India, especially that of the Western Ghats, they pointed out.
The world of spiders is often shrouded in mystery, and much misunderstanding has been woven around them. There are popular misconceptions that all spiders are poisonous creatures. But, in reality, a very few spiders are poisonous and harmful to human beings, the researchers pointed out, quoting earlier studies.